Citizens of heaven and South Africa  E-mail
Grant Flaum | 06 May 2014
It is with nostalgia and a deep sense of gratitude that we look back at 20 years of democracy in South Africa. The elections of 1994 heralded a new era where eligible citizens of this nation, irrespective of their race, could vote for the first time to exercise their democratic right.

Our new ‘rainbow nation’ was initially led by the great Nelson Mandela. He was a real father of the nation who had lived his entire life with this ideal:

‘During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’ 20 April 1964, Rivonia Trial

In this article I want to look at our responsibility as citizens of heaven as well as citizens of the new South Africa. As Christians we are foremost ‘citizens of heaven’ (Philip.3:20) yet we also have a responsibility as citizens of South Africa:

“Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, its God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen.” Romans 13:1 (The Message Translation)

Before I share how we can contribute meaningfully to the future course of our nation, I came across the following Scripture in Isaiah:

Isaiah 60:17 to 21 (The Message Translation). The paragraph is entitled ‘What’s that we see in the distance?’

“I’ll give you only the best – no more hand-me-downs! Gold instead of bronze, silver instead of iron, bronze instead of wood, iron instead of stones. I’ll install Peace to run your country, make Righteousness your boss.

There’ll be no more stories of crime in your land, no more robberies, no more vandalism.

You’ll name your main street Salvation Way, and install Praise Park at the centre of town. Your sun will never go down, your moon will never fade. I will be your eternal light. Your days of grieving are over. All your people will live right and well, in permanent possession of the land.”

The above is a Scripture we were given in the early days of Central Parks City Church. I feel it is such a prophetic declaration of what God wants to do again in our nation.

My three keys for meaningful contribution make up the acronym RIP. I know the minute I say that, you would naturally associate this with someone who has died. We would say at their death: ‘Rest in peace’.

RIP is a term derived from the Latin phrase Requiescat in pace. It is a short inscription on a tomb wishing eternal rest and peace to someone who has died.

So to clarify I am just using RIP as an acronym. My heart is that our nation would not die but instead move in to a time of rest and of great peace and harmony!

That South Africa would rightfully take its place as the beacon of hope for Africa. That it would be a storehouse for the rest of Africa, a worthy BRICS (Brazil Russia India China South Africa) partner.

RIP – here are my three keys:

1.    Reconciliation. He has committed to us as his ambassadors the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19&20)
2.    Influence. Wherever we go, we spread the fragrance and aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15&16). We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13&14).
3.    Prayer. The battle is not yours, it is the Lord’s. Pray for your leaders (1 Timothy 2:1 to 4). Let’s humble ourselves as a nation and seek God’s face (2 Chronicles 7:14)!

1.    Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:18 to 20 (New International Version):

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us.”

In 2 Corinthians 5:18 to 20, Paul is talking about the ultimate reconciliation where God reconciles us back to himself. He is describing our glorious salvation: ‘saved by the one we were being saved from’!

Theologian RC Sproul says this: ‘The most perplexing theological question is not why there’s suffering in this world, but why God tolerates us in our sinfulness.’

God not only tolerates us in our sinfulness He loves us unconditionally. And in so doing reconciles us back to Himself with the free gift of righteousness he imputes to those who entrust their lives to Him.

As key as that reconciliation is in the unlocking of our nation I am talking about a different kind of reconciliation:

I am talking about reconciling the different tribes of South Africa into one ‘rainbow nation’. And the role you and I play in this as ministers of reconciliation, ambassadors of God.

One of the great truths of Scripture is that we are all made ‘in the image and likeness of God’. Under King Jesus we all bow the knee to the same Father.

-    whether black, white, Indian, coloured, Asian, rich, poor
-    we are all equally children of God
-    with equal value

What does reconciliation look like? Before we look at what this looks like practically, first a few definitions:

The Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘reconcile’ as ‘to make friendly after estrangement.’ The Free Dictionary defines it as ‘to re-establish a close relationship between.’ The Vine’s expository refers to the use of the Greek word, ‘Katallasso’, which means ‘to change or exchange’. It is used in the context of ‘people changing from enmity to friendship’.

I loved what Bill Johnson said in the DVD Sunday preach last week and I paraphrase:

‘Fellowship is not just two Christians hanging out with each other. It is sacrifice. It is giving of oneself. It is inconvenience. It is valuing the person above yourself. Its being hemmed in as a body part.’

How far we have drifted from this ideal in our individualistic Western world mindset!

So how do I play a role as reconciler?

Here are a few practical examples:

-    I initiate
-    I move towards
-    I break out of my comfort zones
-    I build bridges between people
-    I build friendships across the colour line
-    I start to view people of other persuasions differently
-    I invite some people from this community to my house who are ‘strangers’ to me
-    I go to Hillbrow with the church to see how the poor and homeless live
-    Sozo can help you deal with any racism in your heart

I ultimately become a bridge builder in my nation.

2.    Influence

In Matthew 5:13 and 14 Jesus says:

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Salt is a vital dietary mineral used for flavoring and preservation. It also regulates the water content in our bodies. It is the great preservative from corruption.

It has a sharp taste and when used to rub on to meat, it keeps the meat from going bad. Jesus uses salt to describe how Christians are used to bring balance and hope to an otherwise dying world.

If it loses its saltiness, salt has no use. You can’t even throw it on the fields! Its only use is to be thrown on the streets to be trodden under foot.

In the same way, light dispels darkness. There is no competition between the two. When light arrives, darkness flees. Even a little bit of light pushes darkness back.

As Christians we are to put our light on a stand so that the entire area within our reach is lit up. Not to hide our light under a bush or under a bowl.

‘Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven’ Matthew 5:16

Wherever we go we spread the aroma of Christ. That is what we are called to do.

2 Corinthians 2:15 and 16 (New International Version):

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death, to the other the fragrance of life.”

We are the fragrance of life to our world. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

I am fascinated reading about how a relatively unknown Christian by the name of Washington Okumu from Kenya brokered one of the great peace agreements of the modern era. [The information-rich website, Wikipedia, doesn’t even have a biography on him!]

So what we do know about him? In an article entitled ‘Mediation efforts in turbulent times’ Rev. Michael Nuttall speaks of him as ‘relatively unknown’, ‘a private diplomatic figure from Kenya’ and ‘a devout Christian’.

Some interesting facts around Washington’s involvement in the South African ‘miracle’:

-    Washington comes to SA in April 1994 in his private capacity to see if he can help
-    When the other well known mediators left the country disillusioned, he proceeded to hammer out a document which became the basis for a last-minute agreement between the      IFP,   ANC and NP.
-    African Enterprise gets Mangosothu Buthelezi, Jacob Zuma and Danie Schutte to Kings Park Prayer rally on 17 April 1994 to discuss Okumu’s document. They agree it in principle
-    This document is then publicly signed in Pretoria two days later by President de Klerk, Nelson Mandela and Mangosothu Buthelezi in the presence of Washington Okumu
-    Just over a week after this South Africans go to the polls for the first time and a ‘rainbow nation’ is born!

That is what I refer to as influence! Or as the Collins dictionary defines it as ‘the power to affect others’.

What about Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist in the United States?

Kris Vallotton in his book, ‘Fashioned to Reign’, says this about her: “Rosa Parks was an ordinary woman who took an extraordinary stand against racism, becoming an American icon for civil rights for all African-Americans. She is known as the Mother of Civil Rights. Her single act of defiance against segregation laws inspired an entire movement.”

Rosa Parks chose on that day, 1 December 1955, to defy a segregation law whereby she was supposed to give up her seat on a bus for a white person. Her arrest sparked a civil rights campaign which ultimately led to the start of a movement in North America. This single act of defiance on her part successfully repealed this law and many other segregation laws.

The above case studies illustrate how two relatively unknown people courageously defied the norms and as a result brought about godly change to their world.

At the prayer meeting a few weeks back I felt God say to me: “Do you trust that I can download an initiative to you or anyone in this congregation that can change this nation?”

I just started imagining. Imagine you get:
-    An idea for an impactful Hollywood movie
-    A letter to write to a politician
-    A document to address some of this country’s great challenges
-    An idea for a non-profit business that can address a very practical and relevant issue of inequality

Yes, you can make a difference! We were made to ‘rule and reign’ not merely survive! We are salt and light! A fragrance of life to those we come in contact with.

We do have the power to positively affect others!

3.    Prayer

I loved what Bill Johnson said in his DVD preach last Sunday. He said we start our Christian journey with prayer - the sinner’s prayer - which goes something like this:

We were lost. We cried out. He saved us.

Praying is what Christians do! Its our humbling of heart to commune with the Father.

Paul, in his letter to Timothy, urges the believers there to pray for their leaders. Those in authority over them:

1 Timothy 2:1 to 4 (New International Version):

“I urge, then first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

What do we pray for? How do we pray?
Start with praying the Scriptures over our nation.

Pray, for example for:
-    the voiceless poor to have a voice
-    against the moral rot
-    that God would guide this nation
-    that we would humble our hearts and seek his face
-    for good government (local and national)
-    that our leaders would be truly born again
-    for wisdom for our leaders to lead
-    for godly men around our leaders
-    intercede for our leaders
-    thank God for our leaders

I came across a historic account written by Rev. Michael Nuttall on the behind-the-scenes spiritual events leading up to our first democratic election in 1994. The article is entitled ‘Mediation efforts in turbulent times’.

In the article he looks at how key the church and more particularly prayer was in the unfolding miracle of our new nation.

He specifically notes the following major initiatives during this time:

•    the Kings Park prayer rally hosted by African Enterprise where 30,000 believers from the Kwazulu Natal region came out to prayer
•    the mediation efforts of Washington Okumu (discussed in more detail above)
•    Churches who committed themselves for days to praying for the nation

So the question from Isaiah 66:8 is: ‘Can a nation be saved in a day?’ From these accounts it seems like that is the story of South Africa in 1994.

Can God do it again? I have to say ‘yes’ He can.

- If you want to know how you can invest your time in the best way possible on behalf of this nation.
- If you want to know what is on God’s heart for the nation.
- If you want to be used mightily by God in this nation
- If you want to sway Government from your living room

Then pray. And keep praying.

Ask the Father for insight and understanding.

No word returns to him null and void. Prayer changes nations.

Isaiah 55:11 (New International Version):

“…so is my word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Can a nation be saved in a day? I honestly believe it can.

God is calling us as a nation at this time to humble ourselves, soften our hearts and turn towards Him. To seek his face. To cry out to Him. To turn from our wicked ways as a nation. No more corruption. No more deception. No lies. He promises from His Word that He will heal our beloved land.

We are called to be sharp tasty salt to our world. To put a stop to the rot of corruption we see around us.

We are called to bring heaven to earth.

That is the key to us being both citizens of heaven and earth at the same time. Bringing heaven to earth.

How do we do that?

3 things strong on my heart:
-    Reconcile: build bridges. Bring friendship where there once was enmity or estrangement
-    Influence. As Christians we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We spread wherever we go the aroma of Christ. You can make a significant difference!
-    Pray for our leaders. Pray that God would guide this nation.

Nkosi Sikelel’ Iafrika! God bless Africa