You probably know about Apartheid (literally, "apart-ness") which was an official policy of strict racial segregation in the country of South Africa. Black South Africans were oppressed by a small white minority: they were herded into poor, crowed townships; they were not allowed to vote; they were forced to carry identity papers everywhere they went.
Apartheid ended in 1994 when the first democratic, multi-racial elections were held. Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. Later he would establish the "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" to try and heal the country's divisions. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the head of that commission. He writes,
[Mandela] was imprisoned for 27 years; most expected that when he emerged, he would be riddled with a lust for retribution. But the world has been amazed; instead of spewing calls for revenge, he urged his own people to work for reconciliation -- and invited his former jailer to attend his presidential inauguration as a VIP guest.Last summer I was in South Africa and I saw the results of reconciliation. I attended an opera on the life of Nelson Mandela. I sat there in the Durban Playhouse with black South Africans and white South Africans all celebrating the life of this once controversial leader. I talked to people who voted in that historic 1994 election. I talked to an old Afrikaner who used to be in the South African army. (Afrikaners were the ones who instigated Apartheid.) This fellow told me that in 1994 he made speeches at white churches and garden clubs easing their fears about the upcoming election. Then, as a member of the army, he helped guard the polls. He told me he was proud to have been part of that time in history.
Reconciliation is at the heart of the Christian message. Sunday we looked at 2 CORINTHIANS 5:16-21, where Paul says that "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them." He explains that God has entrusted this message of reconciliation to us. He's called us to be "ministers of reconciliation."
And he describes what it took for us to be reconciled to God: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." That's the heart of the Christian message. Reconciliation. Costly reconciliation that came at the price of God's own son dying on the cross to make us right with God.
The Bible makes very, very clear that being reconciled with God means being reconciled with each other:
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive each other (Colossians 3:13).
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:15).Reconciliation is at the heart of the Christian message. But if it's not in your and my hearts, then I have to wonder if we've really understood the message.
How could you be a minister of reconciliation in a situation you know about? Do you need to go to someone you're on the outs with and say, "Let's talk"? Do you need to get two friends together and say, "I'd like to help y'all work this out"? Do you need to sit down with your extended family and say, "I'm ready for the feuding to stop"? Do you need to stop putting down another group group of people, stop telling certain jokes, or maybe take some time to get to know someone who's different from you?
Reconciliation is at the heart of the Christian message. How could you be a minister of reconciliation this week?