On this Reconciliation Day.

South African government website, http://www.info.gov.za, has this to say about the Day of Reconciliation that is celebrated every December 16th: “In apartheid South Africa 16 December was known as Day of the Vow, as the Voortrekkers in preparation for the battle took a Vow before God that they would build a church and that they and their descendants would observe the day as a day of thanksgiving should they be granted victory. With the advent of democracy in South Africa 16 December retained its status as a public holiday, however, this time with the purpose of fostering reconciliation and national unity”.

Even though the Vow by Voortrekkers was made in some bizarre circumstances, considering the already existing church, Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk, that was in place in the Cape then in which the Voortrekkers belonged to, the Voortrekkers though, did fulfil their Vow. In 1841, The Voortrekkers did build a church, Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, and it became one of the biggest denominational churches in South Africa. The Voortrekkers as promised did celebrate the day for decades as the day of thanksgiving.

But there’s something wrong with this story. Yes there were miracle victories against black natives, which can be directly attributed to God’s intervention on behalf of Voortrekkers, considering how outnumbered they were on most occasions. Of course the Voortrekkers did build and dedicate the church to God. And 16th December was declared a thanksgiving day, to thank God for the mercies He poured on the Voortrekkers. But during all this time, there was never reconciliation between the Voortrekkers’ Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk and Cape-based Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk. Despite great efforts by Andrew Murray Jr, reconciliation between the two churches never reached any promising level.

Since the advent of democracy, December 16th has taken on a new meaning, it is now a day ‘with the purpose of fostering reconciliation and national unity’. It is meant to bridge the decades-long divide between whites and blacks (Africans, coloureds, Indians and Chinese). But is it really possible for reconciliation to take place between diverse races which are not only divided by history, but by also class and culture, with spoken languages as major stumbling blocks? If the Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk and Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk can’t reconcile, despite all efforts through measures such as the Belhar Confession, even though they have a common history and future aspirations, then is it reasonable to expect the Oppressor of the apartheid era to reconcile with the Oppressed?

The story of these two churches highlights just how lengthy and cruel the process of reconciliation is, and how it can’t be taken for granted. The process of reconciliation first requires an understanding and recognition of the fact that there has been a lot of pain and anger that needs to be dealt with. The emigration of white South Africans to Australia and other parts of the world, clearly demonstrates that perhaps the black community isn’t enough sensitive to the needs of their counterparts in post-apartheid era. The cry of racism from young black professionals in the workplace is a demonstration that perhaps their counterparts are underestimating the pain and hurt that has been caused by apartheid. The reason people like Eugene Terblanche and Julius Malema have an audience that we can’t explain, even though they are controversial, is because they know that the purported impressive public display of reconciliation doesn’t have roots in the heart, with the heart as the foundation for a true reconciliation. They know that both black and white people hate each other as colleagues and neighbours, but they are just performing a show for the world to see. The reason books like Capitalist Nigger by Dr Chika Onyeani have been in the top sellers list for so many years, is a clear illustration of just how pain-filled our hearts are still are.

The message is clear that to have a true reconciliation, and for this Reconciliation Day to have a true meaning; there has to be a pure heart. The question of reconciliation caused a biblical writer called James to ask: ‘What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?’ (James 4:1). Reality is every human conflict is caused by evil and selfish desires that come out of a man’s heart. Everybody wants to have their own way, regardless of the consequences of their actions to their fellow humans. Jesus explained this phenomenon by saying: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45).

Do you really think a person speaks things that are in his/her heart? Look at this quote from Mike Smith: “Blacks steal and are violent. Their culture, music, etc are all primitive. Their superstitious beliefs are gullible, they have primitive brains of low IQ, they smell funny and they are lazy. Many reasons can be presented why other cultures and races in South Africa resent Blacks, but that is not the issue in hand.” (You can read the full article: http://www.boerevryheid.co.za/forums/archive/index.php?t-17185.html). You are not going to debate racism out of Mike, if his racism tendencies are only intellectual and based on his observations. The only way for Mike Smith to change his viewpoint is by having a pure heart, which will enable him to speak differently about people of a different race.  

But how do you get a pure heart? The ancient ruler of Israel, David, was faced with the same problem. He wanted a pure heart, after he ‘killed’ another man so he can have his wife to himself. Realising what he has done, and the evil nature of his heart which caused him to do this horrible thing, he said: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). David realised that only God is capable of creating a new and pure heart within a man. It’s impossible for anybody to have a pure loving heart without God’s help. If you want a legitimate reconciliation with people, you first have to have reconciliation within your own heart first. Firstly you have to admit that your heart is evil, hence you are able to hate people or do harm to them. Secondly, reach out to God for help, so He can create a pure heart in you.

Pray this prayer; and God will give you a pure heart as you trust Him for your salvation, then reconcile with everybody you have wronged both in action or thoughts:

Jesus, I confess with my mouth that you are Lord, and I believe in my heart that God raised You from the dead, and I trust you for my salvation, forgive my sins and create in me a new heart, Amen. (Romans 10:9, Psalm 51:8-10).

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