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A Christian Pastoral Response to SA Violence

“When the foundations are being destroyed,
What can the righteous do?”

Psalm 11:3

My wife and I are part of Freedom House Church in Salt Rock, South Africa. It’s in the province that was hardest hit by the violence this past week. I drafted the following statement with the church leaders. The purpose is to pastor our people, and whoever wants to listen, by giving perspective and guidance on how to respond to what has happened. It was, clearly, an orchestrated attempt to divide and destabilise the nation in reaction to our previous President Jacob Zuma’s arrest, for the purposes of shifting power to his faction.

The images of wholesale looting by thousands of people, burning buildings and ransacking infrastructure, have been seen internationally on TV and social media. One watches with utter and total dismay, with tears of lament. The death toll stands at 117 (today, 16 July), with damage estimated at 16 billion rands (over $1bn). And it is still not fully under control, though the army has been deployed in the last two days. Deeply traumatic for all South Africans. No need to go further into the details, they can be read in the news media. What do we do?

First, we encourage you to pray David’s words in Psalm 11:1-7, phrase by phrase, to process your feelings and perceptions – to pray our response as the people of God. After 10 years of corrupt rule, our nation seriously weakened by state capture and economic rape under Jacob Zuma’s rule, and with the devastation of Corona and lockdown, and now this week of devastation. What do the righteous do when the foundations of society, of our nation, are being destroyed?

We don’t panic! We do not listen to the inner and outer voices of fear that suggest all sorts of things (“flee to the mountains”, vv.1-2). We look up to Yahweh. God is on his throne, still in charge! God sees everything. He empowers the response of the righteous. He will judge those who love violence (vv.4-7). The alternate Hebrew phrase is, “What is the Righteous One doing?” For those who have eyes of faith, God is working in this to unmask, judge and defeat the evil that uses poor, desperate, hungry, angry communities, as expendable means for their purposes of power. Let us work with God, “who loves justice”, to defeat that evil.

What does this mean? From a Biblical worldview of God’s Kingship, it means

We do not minimise or deny reality (what’s really going on) by escaping into super-spiritual warfare unrelated to reality – a triumphalism over emphasising ‘Kingdom now’.

Nor do we succumb to it in fatal acceptance and fear, or glorify it in reactionary comments, anger, racism, or retaliatory violence – a humanism of over emphasising ‘Kingdom not yet’.

Rather, we face reality honestly with God, humbling ourselves, learning to lament by praying psalms – to lament the pain and injustice of all who suffer. Yet, at the same time, we engage reality in faith and hope of Greater Reality – God’s Kingship – breaking through for human good.

Therefore, we call on you to…

Intercede for leaders, national and local (1 Timothy 2:1-5), for good governance, for “the foundations” of ethical values to build an equitable, just and caring society, that all “may live peaceful and quiet lives”, which is “good and pleases God”. I.e. God’s will is ethical governance for the good of human society. We are not powerless!

Prayer is our primary weapon because principalities and powers work in and through leaders. The powers behind the happenings in South Africa must be defeated, both spiritually and politically – the reign of corruption and state capture. Our nation will NOT be offered up as a sacrifice on the altar of the politics of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). Our nation is NOT at the mercy of a life and death battle within the ANC, but at the mercy of God. God is King! Pray God’s Government intervenes through courageous, wise, decisive leadership in President Cyril Ramaphosa and his team.

Not only pray, but presence yourself in community action to intercede and intervene for the good of society. God wills good society. Your prayers have authority by your presence on the ground, in the street, in self-sacrificial service to your neighbour, “doing good works”, that your “light shines before people” (Matthew 5:16). An amazing outcome of this week’s evil work is the community mobilisation, sacrifice and care, we are witnessing. The response of communities is inspiring and hopeful. Followers of Jesus should be involved as examples of such activism, especially in protecting the vulnerable, feeding the hungry, working for justice, job creation, empowering the poor, and loving the ‘enemy’.

By your presence, proclaim the good news of God’s government that does not fail. Your presence in service gives you authority to speak about the reason for your faith in God. It’s interesting volunteering with the guys doing roadblocks, listening to the talk, their anger, cursing, even racism. Guard your heart and mind, and mouth, in terms of what you think and say. You can further fill the air with fear and anger, or you can gently share your response to the situation in South Africa from the hope of God’s Kingdom, from the viewpoint of faith, reconciliation, healing, truth, justice.

Go beyond proclaiming to pastor people, by following up those who respond, who are open to God’s government in King Jesus. People are desperate for hope, disillusioned with human government, which will always fail us, one way or another. God’s government will never fail. We pastor by walking with people through what’s happening in their lives, in their families, in the nation – in their fear, confusion, insecurity, etc – by patiently answering questions, teaching them to live in and from God’s Rule and Reign. We pastor people by giving godly perspective through prayer, presence, proclamation and provision of God’s love and care.

As we did during lockdown, we encourage you to pastor one another in the Freedom House family via regular contact and connect groups. We encourage you to break bread and share the blood of Jesus with each other. Especially with the vulnerable, the elderly and lonely. We encourage parents to sit regularly with their children and pray with them. And explain – at age-appropriate levels – what is going on, giving the perspective of God’s Kingship and our security in him: “In the LORD I take refuge… for the LORD is righteous, he loves justice, the upright will see his face ” (Psalm 11:1,7).

May God have mercy on South Africa

May God defeat the evil powers bent on destruction

May God intervene for truth and justice

For the poor and suffering

May God heal our nation

Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika!Woza Moya, woza!

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South African Crisis: Open Letter to my Church

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The Lord is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne.”
(Psalm 11:3-4)

“Cry the beloved country” – AGAIN – our nation is in crisis! A serious moral, political and socio-economic crisis. As your pastor it would be sinful if I did not speak out in this hour, speaking truth to power, and giving guidance to our congregation: What must the Church do?

Last night at midnight, under the cloak of darkness, President Jacob Zuma announced a cabinet reshuffle. He fired Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, and kept poor performing and corrupt ministers – clearly ‘Zupta Supporters’ in his system of patronage. He has made Malusi Gigaga, a corrupt Zupta supporter, the new Finance Minister. Gigaba is known to frequent the Gupta residence in Saxonwald, infamously called ‘Saxonwald Shabeen’. This is the most shameless blatant ‘state capture’ to control the national treasury and further rape the country’s resources. Pravin Gordhan’s response to this extreme act of state capture is simple: The nation must rise up for truth and justice, and organize and mobilize to resist – get on the streets and stop this evil taking over – else we will suffer the consequences.

Those who support Zuma in the name of “remove Gordhan because he protects ‘white monopoly capital’ and works against the radical transformation of the economy”, are blinded and captivated by the ideological defenses of Zupta corruption. Even Julius Malema, the most radical proponent of decolonization and justice for the poor (rightly so), does NOT buy this ideological deception – he fully supports Gordhan and Jonas’ integrity and competent work.

Our nation right now teeters on the edge. This can snowball into serious destruction, or be a turning point for good. How do we think Biblically, and not ideologically, about this situation? (Ideology means a system of thought and argument that justifies certain group interests over against another group – the ‘lenses’ through which we see, interpret and react to reality)

The Biblical idea of crisis is captured in the word kairos: a moment in time in the history of the nation that is a turning point one way or another, depending on our corporate choice. Kairos is both judgement/disaster, and opportunity of God’s merciful intervention, at the same time. We lived through a kairos in 1994 and chose a miracle of peaceful change in SA, defeating evil powers that threatened civil war. We are at the same place again as a nation. What will you choose? Truth or corruption? Good or evil? Action or passivity?

When the foundations of our nation, of our lives, are being shaken, what can the righteous do? King David’s answer is clear: See Yahweh, the Creator-God of the nations, on his throne, still in charge of his universe. Compare Psalm 11 with Psalm 2 and see what the Church must do:

  1. Not to panic, not be intimidated, not be psycho-emotionally defeated, not get all negative and depressed, and talk ourselves and our nation into a hole, into the hands of the devil.
  2. But this does not mean that we cannot, and must not, call it for what it is: pure evil. Some Christians bury their head in the sands of ‘positive confession’ believing that to say anything negative (to name, describe, unmask and rebuke evil) is wrong – that is Gnostic belief.
  3. It means, while we face reality full on, without denial and ideological blindness, at the same time we continually look up to see God on his throne. God is ultimately in charge, though he has delegated spiritual powers to rule over nations. These ‘powers’ become corrupt, as seen or ‘manifested’ in national leaders and governments. God can judge and discipline them.
  4. It means seeing things from God’s point of view: “Yahweh observes everyone on earth, his eyes examine them, the righteous and the wicked – who love lies, cheating, stealing, violence – which God hates with a passion” (11:4-5) God sees and knows it all. We can pray with his passion, that he exposes and judges and defeats that evil, as David says in 11:6.
  5. But it also means, we not only reactively pray for the downfall of evil, but we proactively love justice (11:7). We must model and do justice in our circles of influence, in our nation. We must show a different way of being the new South Africa that we all want. What this looks like practically must be discussed and implemented and lived. THIS is collaboration with Messiah to advance his rule of righteousness in the face of ‘the powers’, as in Psalm 2 (God laughs at presidents who chuckle while doing evil, thinking they will get away with it, 2:4).
  6. Why the above five points on prayer? Because we have direct access to God, the Ultimate Power over nations! To pray is to trust God and live in peace. If we pray for principled leadership, good godly government, as in 1 Tim 2:1f, God will give it to us.
  1. What more can Christians do? We must live our prayers daily by speaking up and standing up for truth. STOP lying, stop cheating, stop stealing, stop all corruption – expose and challenge it. Confront injustice; shout it out from the roof-tops.
  1. We can pour out into the streets to besiege parliament in the hundreds of thousand, NOT in the name of a political party, but in the name of Jesus, justice, righteousness, truth. The Koreans and Brazilians recently dethroned their corrupt presidents by occupying the streets with a million people. Mass non-violent resistance and public protest has great power for change in national histories, where injustice gained the upper hand.
  1. Vote the ANC out of power. It’s not about Zuma per se, it’s about the ANC that has allowed the Zuptas to capture the state for self-enrichment. The ANC, from Cyril Ramaphosa and Gwede Mantashe and all them, must take responsibility. They have lost the right to rule this country. Their credibility is down the drain. Vote them out of power! Don’t vote ANC!

I trust this gives perspective as to a Christian response.

Here is my FaceBook post:

“I call on all people of truth and integrity in South Africa, who love righteousness and justice, who believe God still controls the destiny of nations – the God who can bring either judgement or blessing through wicked or righteous leaders – to pray up, speak up, stand up, march up, and shout from the rooftops, against the firing of Gordhan and his deputy, against Zuma’s shameless blatant ‘treasuary capture’ to further pillage and rape the nation’s resources for his own ends of security and power. The conspiring of evil to hold onto power has played its card, may righteousness and truth defeat it.

If the leaders and people of principle, of truth, of justice (including the Christians) WITHIN THE ANC, WITHIN THE CABINET, WITHIN THE ANC ELDERS & STALWARTS, WITHIN LUTHULI HOUSE, do not stand up right now and confront and discipline and recall Zuma, they will have lost all credibility. NOW is the time, NOW is the hour for them to be counted, to intervene, to put their bodies on the line for the sake of the nation, to stop this naked shameless corruption of power. Pray for the leaders who now step to the fore over the next few days to confront this madness of Zuma, because they could lead us to a better place over the next few years. Above all PRAY, and speak up, and engage in whatever non-violent resistance that can confront the corrupt powers of Zuma and his cronies, his whole system of patronage that he’s built up… MAY IT FALL FLAT IN THE NAME OF JESUS!”

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A Christian Response to Jihadist Violence & Donald Trump

Following the Paris and Beirut massacres and the social media discourse that ensued, as a reasonably regular twit I tweeted the following on 21 November: “In all the jihadist killings and hatred, WE MUST SEE JESUS – a King who does not kill anyone, but gives himself in love to die for everyone”

Then I was stimulated by Fr Francesco Follo’s meditation on ‘King of Truth and Love’ (in John 18:33-37) and I thought more about what I tweeted. So I wanted to elaborate and I posted this on my FaceBook page on 21 November 2015:

Jesus didn’t impose his Caliphate as a domain of lies, hatred & violence. He witnessed to the truth as an inviting Kingdom of self-giving love. His Royalty was exercised NOT as an imposition of an intolerant cruel domain, but as a witness (a martyr) to the truth of love – for this very reason King Jesus was born and came into the world (John 18:37). And everyone who is of the truth, who seeks truth, will hear his voice, his message of love.

What is the truth of love? Jesus didn’t spill the blood of anyone, adding to sin, but shed his own blood for everyone, atoning for sin. He does not violently sacrifice anyone, but sacrifices himself, absorbing all violence for everyone. He takes a cross as his throne, thorns as his crown, to rule not by the sword to behead or the Kalashnikov to massacre, but by the truth of love to save and set free. THIS love, and its truth, is the greatest power known in all created reality. It will ultimately conquer all and reign over all. Continue reading A Christian Response to Jihadist Violence & Donald Trump

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State of the Nation (South Africa): A Pastor’s Response

To listen to the audio teaching click on

Since January 2015 I’ve had a growing number of people expressing serious concern over the state of our nation, asking: how must we respond as Christians? The chaotic Opening of Parliament on 12 February has increased the volume of concern. Some want to emigrate. As a pastor I feel pressed to respond by giving our local church some (biblical) perspective and guidance. This is a big issue to address in one talk; hence this headline overview.

I’m a pale-male middle-class South African, fully aware of the (historical) baggage that it represents. But that doesn’t disqualify me from addressing this issue. Besides, to do a little ‘foolish boasting’ as Paul did (2Cor 12:1f), I spent 12 years involved in Soweto working in the name of Jesus for justice and reconciliation (1983–1995), repenting from my racist conditioning and putting my body on the line, taking a strong stand against Apartheid. My book Doing Reconciliation tells the story, with the biblical theology and praxis, of those years. Since 1994 I’ve continued to take a consistent prophetic stance for reconciliation and righteousness in society, in our body politic, without fear or favour.  Continue reading State of the Nation (South Africa): A Pastor’s Response