Wheat, Weeds and All

Moss Ntlha, SACLI Chairman

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared”

The parable of the wheat and weeds is a good interpretative lens for making sense of 2015. The good wheat is the promise of a flourishing non-racial democracy that fired the imagination of many South Africans in 1994. In the circumstances of this world, we can only talk about the kingdom in parables. Partly because we lack adequate language and reference points for our deepest aspirations of what is true, just and beautiful. It is God’s work in progress amongst us, to be fully revealed in the fullness of time. But we get a glimpse of it in the stirrings of the Spirit in our society, the mass restlessness against what is evil, the rising confidence of the poor to demand justice, couched often in the hashtag campaigns of young South Africans.

The weed sowed by the enemy is the disappointing emergence of everything that conspires to undo the hard work of so many. If the South African story was one that inspired faith, hope and solidarity for many both at home and around the world, then corruption is the one thing that South Africans have come to accept as public enemy number one. It is the single most potent tool of the enemy to demoralise and destroy the faith, hope and love of many South Africans. It is a cancer that threatens to kill and destroy the hope of the majority of our people.

The good news is that Jesus still has a Church in South Africa; that community of convinced Christ followers whose mission is not only to keep the faith, but to spread it. How might the Church help South Africans to believe in the triumph of good over evil? How might they keep faith, hope and human solidarity alive among a people who see the ethic of greed, graft and “each one for himself, and God for us all” take root and thrive? How might the Church strengthen the arm of the nation as it strives to pursue a vision of a better – though not perfect – tomorrow, articulated in documents like the National Development Plan?

There are two ways the Church can do this. First, we respond by praying. This simple act is perhaps not politically correct. Cynics may dismiss it as ‘opium to the masses’ or an avoidance of the tough challenges that face us as we rebuild from the ruins of our past. Yet it is this that distinguishes the Church from other NGOs. She prays, because she is dependent on God and is nothing without God. She knows that the project of building a flourishing, just, reconciled and healed nation is too huge to attempt on her own. It is for this reason that the SACC has, without apology, publicly declared its conviction of The South Africa we shall pray for. It is not only a call for prayer, but a commitment to concrete and specific actions by the churches. The house of the Lord is, after all, a place of “prayer for the nations”, said Jesus.

Secondly, by exercising the ministry of accompaniment in the people’s quest for life-affirming values, good governance and a restoration of public trust in elected leaders.

Some 300 organised formations of civil society correctly embarked on the hard but necessary task of serving the emergence of a popular movement whose strategic goal was to end corruption and bad governance. The Unite Against Corruption marches and the #Zumamustfall demonstration are part of advancing this struggle. More of such initiatives of the people can be expected to gain momentum in the months and years ahead, until the battle is won. Through SACLI, church leaders became part of this movement building. It is a way of expressing a ministry of accompaniment, and of strengthening movements of hope that keep people’s faith alive, a hope that another world is possible. It is a way of re-affirming the triumph the narrative of the good wheat at a time when the hope-destroying narrative of weeds appears dominant.

It is this connection of faith with popular struggles that gives us hope for the years ahead. For those without a formal confession of faith, a new in-the-trenches conversation has begun about what Christianity is really all about. For those with a formal confession of faith the world for whom Christ died is seen with new eyes. All this enriches and transforms Church and civil society as we go on the journey to becoming the South Africa we want to be.