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Peace In Transit

Updated: Jan 1, 2021

"What's your final destination?" A pretty typical question asked on airports, with just about as many different answers as there are travelers. As I write this, waiting for a connecting flight home, I'm sitting across from a group of other South Africans. It's not just the one guy in his Stormers rugby jersey that gives it away, but they're chatting amicably in Afrikaans. It's funny - Afrikaans people think it's their superpower overseas. They think no-one understands what they're saying, and that allows them to discuss absolutely anything they want with impunity. As an Afrikaner travelling abroad, your radar automatically perks up at the sound of your mother tongue. A colourful language, with all its hard guttural g's and rolling r's. Music to my ears. And how it warms my heart to hear them talking about having a braai when they get back home. The topic of conversation turns toward the group of Koreans in full PPE right in front of us. The Koreans don't understand them, sure - but I do. Julle skelms. Okay, I stopped eavesdropping and introduced myself... in Afrikaans. I'd lie if I said I didn't enjoy the look on their faces.

I wonder where people would guess I'm from and where I'm headed, just by looking at me. I'd like to think that I'm much more than my appearance, my accent or even my nationality. Sure, it's a big part of who I am, but I hope that who I am ultimately trumps the colour of my passport. How can all of me be reduced to the fact that I'm just another Saffa? Isn't that what we tend to do with people, though? Put them in categories and make sweeping statements about them. This past week, on the 16th of December, South Africa celebrated Reconciliation Day. A painful reminder of a history where whole people groups were reduced to pass-books based on the colour of their skin. But it's also the celebration of our struggle to break out of that discriminatory system and of our coming together in diversity. Did I mention that the group of South Africans are a coloured lady, a black man and white guy?

I grew up in a multicultural church in the midlands of Kwazulu-Natal. My grandfather, who was a staunch Dutch-Reformer, once came for a visit. Upon seeing Xhosas, Zulus, Indians, Coloured, Ghanaians, Ugandans and Afrikaners worshiping together, he remarked: "Can it be so easy?" My mom just retold it later, but if I had been part of the conversation, I would've liked to shout: "Yes! It's what Jesus came for!" "For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility," Paul writes to the church in Ephesus. Jesus came to build the bridge between all people: Jews and Gentiles, Romans and Greeks, French and English, Americans and Canadians, white and black, Palestinians and Israelis. Every tongue and every tribe, united in worshiping Him as the True King of the world.

As Christians in transit through this world, I believe we should be all about reconciliation. A vertical reconciliation, between God and mankind - proclaiming the Gospel of God's new creation in Christ. But that new creation flows out into our horizontal relationships with people. I'm not talking about a political agenda, but of love. Why should we maintain the barriers that God has torn down in Christ? No, we long for the ultimate reconciliation when every knee bows and every tongue confesses together that Jesus is the Lord.

Miroslav Volf writes in his book "Exclusion & Embrace" about this final reconciliation: "...First, the final reconciliation is not a work of human beings but of the triune God. Second, it is not an apocalyptic end of the world, but the eschatological new beginning of this world. Third, the final reconciliation is not a self-enclosed 'totality' because it rests on a God who is a perfect love. The hope for such 'nontotalitarian' final reconciliation is the backdrop against which Christians engage in the struggle for peace under the conditions of enmity and oppression." In this time of Advent, may this convict us anew: Peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind.

Walk with the King... He's the Prince of Peace.

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