Micah 6:6-8 (The Message)
How can I stand up before GOD and show proper respect to the high God? Should I bring an armload of offerings topped off with yearling calves? Would GOD be impressed with thousands of rams, with buckets and barrels of olive oil? Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child, my precious baby, to cancel my sin? But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what GOD is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.
2 Corinthians 5:16-19
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 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.
How we read the Bible will determine whether we bend the gospel toward our needs and agenda, or whether the Bible sets the agenda and bends us toward the cross of reconciliation. The Bible, as the word of God, collides with our present circumstances as the Holy Spirit takes the historical message and uses that message to challenge and shape our present circumstances. A way of interpreting the Bible which promotes the status quo and leaves the church comfortably within it’s walls is a way of interpreting scripture which has been tried and found wanting. The Bible is constantly challenging the church to live in a state of reformation as it seeks to serve rather than be served. (Mark 10:35-45)
The second article of the Belhar Confession challenges and bends the Church toward our call to be ambassadors of reconciliation in the world. Reconciliation—God uniting that which is divided—always pits the people of God against the forces of evil which seek to divide and isolate. The second dominant theme that emerges is we, who are blessed with position, power, and resources are always expected to use what God has given to bless and empower others.
Second Kings 7 tells the story of four lepers sitting outside the city gates of Samaria, a city under siege by the king of Aram. It was an ugly scene, and the lepers were between a rock and a hard place. They finally decided they could starve in place or see what the possibilities might be where Aram’s army was camped. They might find someone to take pity on them and give them food. Unbeknownst to them, the Lord had caused panic by fooling the army into thinking they were being attacked, so the lepers walked into a deserted, but well-supplied camp. They ate their fill, then began the fun of sorting through the booty left behind. At that point they looked at each other and knew they had to tell the starving inhabitants of Samaria they’d found food, even though those inhabitants had showed no pity on them: “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent.” (2 Kings 7:9) This is not an isolated story. Joseph did the same thing in Egypt. The message of Zechariah 8:13 is woven throughout the Bible: “I will save you that you may become a blessing.” Ephesians 2:8-10 celebrates God’s saving grace, then points us toward the good work of God’s chosen people—chosen for mission not privilege.
The peculiar theology of the Afrikaner Christians took the tenets of John Calvin, and bent them toward their race, position, privilege, and nationalism. If there is one tenet that has confounded the reformed church since Calvin, it is his commentary on predestination and election. For Calvin, God’s sovereignty was supreme, and therefore what happens here on earth is guided, if not determined by God’s will. That was a dangerous theology in the hands of people who viewed themselves as the “elect” and chosen people (Volk) of God. Domination of other groups of people by the white minority was understood as part of God’s eternal plan. Events of the Bible, by the white minority was encouraged and even blessed by reinterpreting the Bible through the lens of racism and entitlement. Biblical stories like God’s confusion of the languages (Tower of Babel Genesis 11) were reinterpreted as the will of God to separate, and keep separate the races. A theology of domination and control was blessed by God, while ignoring Jesus’ words to seek to serve rather than be served, and the warning against viewing yourself as the “elect” and the other as the “damned,” the one cast out from God’s presence. The upside down nature of God’s kingdom was ignored (Jesus: “the first shall be last and the last first”) in favor of a theology of self-interest.
The gospel is at risk whenever Jesus’ message is coopted for our purposes so we shape the message instead of the message shaping us.