On Thursday afternoon we listened to Reverend Kenneth Meshoe of the ACDP tell us about the role that church ministers have to play in society. He was speaking to us at the Great Commission Ministers’ Network – a fellowship of Christian ministers that is based in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape.
He referenced the twenty-fourth chapter of the book of Second Chronicles. The scripture he read resonated with me and the rest of the bishops and pastors who filled the room. “Joash did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight throughout the lifetime of Jehoiada the priest … But after Jehoiada’s death, the leaders of Judah came and bowed before King Joash and persuaded him to listen to their advice. They decided to abandon the Temple of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem,” (2 Chronicles 24: 2, 17-18, New Living Translation).
He gave an example of how in 1995 he was sitting in a committee meeting tasked with deliberating on what type of state South Africa should be. In the meeting Dr Blade Nzimande, of the SACP, currently the minister of Higher Education and Training, submitted that SA should be a secular state. Meshoe says, at the time (maybe due to his abrupt entry into politics) he didn’t know what a secular state was. He then felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to ask the committee what a secular state was and what it would mean to South Africa.
A professor, who was a consultant, promised to draft a written report and submit it to the committee the following week. The report mentioned three characteristics of a secular state: the constitution does not mention the word ‘God’; no religious minister would be allowed to hold an office of government; and organs or facilities of the state would not be used for religious activities.
This opened his eyes. He made copies of the report and circulated it to individuals, churches and Christian organisations. This led to a march to parliament ending any intention to declare South Africa a secular state. One direct result of this is that Christians in South Africa can now meet freely in schools, stadiums and public halls.
Just because we are commanded by our Lord to be like sheep, does it also mean we have to allow the authorities, media and those with a perverse agenda to pull wool over our eyes?
Groups lobbying for harmful legislation
Interest groups have been successful at lobbying government and getting their way with policies and the kind of state they want South Africa to be. In 1997 abortion was introduced by stealth in our country and we have since had to live with the rising death toll. These interest groups have grown bolder and have been trying relentlessly and continuously to introduce similarly harmful legislation in our country – on prostitution and pornography.
This week we heard of the public hearings scheduled by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, to investigate complaints and determine whether the Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994 caters only for the Christian religious “holydays” thus unfairly discriminating against holidays of other religions.
Shall we keep being quiet?
The devil sells Christians a lie. He trivialises the significance of world events: it’s only a day on the calendar, only a label on a food package and only a television programme; what harm can it do I still have my Jesus. This reasoning is an extension of the age-old adage, “take the world and give me Jesus.”
Have we lost hope? Maybe we are worn out from all the fighting and having to continually defend ourselves from temptation, prosecution, hurt, sickness, debts and our family troubles. So we concede a loss, take a bit of a rest. Jesus did warn us about these birth pains in Matthew 24. He told us to keep the faith.
In the Hollywood blockbuster The Last Samurai, war veteran Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) advises his newfound Japanese allies how to frustrate the enemy in battle by “wearing out every taste they have of fighting.”
Maybe we have lost the faith; we are dog-tired and can’t wait for the mercy ship to arrive, so we can be taken out of here and break out in chorus, “goodbye sadness, hello happiness.” We can’t wait for that last trumpet sound.
In contrast, I put it to you Christian, that the only way we can get our ‘happiness’ is through fighting and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6: 13).