In the spring of 1988, a young man active in the anti-apartheid
movement named Sfiso was showing me around his black
township. Eight rifle-wielding members of the South African
army leapt from an armored personnel carrier and ordered us to
the military tower. In the interrogation room, an officer threatened
to put Sfiso back into prison, where for ten months he had
been held in a cold cell and tortured. Sfiso reached calmly into
his back pocket and took out his small New Testament. Holding
it up to the officer’s face, he declared, “Sir, I am a Christian.”
Silence descended as the arrogance of evil met the quiet power
of the gospel.
Sfiso’s action was the most courageous I had ever witnessed.
He told me afterward that he was not against white
people but against injustice. Sfiso and his colleagues in the freedom
struggle were working for a unity based on their belief that
every human being is a beloved child of God—from the most
exploited laborer to the cruelest perpetrator of racist violence.
Jesus makes visible God. The disciples’ relationship with
him allow them to know God. Now, as Jesus faces death, he
prays that his disciples “may be one, as we [Jesus and God]
are one.” A few verses later, he prays, “I ask not only on behalf
of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me
through their word, that they may all be one” (17:20-21). Unity
is on Jesus’ mind in his final hours on earth—for his friends and
for those of us who follow in the path of discipleship after them.
As Sfiso taught me almost three decades ago, such unity
requires extravagant mercy and costly forgiveness. This is part
of the price for those who “have kept [God’s] word” (17:6)—and
for those of us still striving to do so.
Merciful God, give me the strength to forgive, and help me never to underestimate the power of your word. Amen.
The entire Easter season focuses on the new governance that breaks the grip of all that is old, tired, deathly, and enslaving. The psalm shows the church using the ancient language of enthronement. Now it is Jesus through whom the drama of God’s power is brought to fruition. In Acts, the community accepts the new governance as a bold witness in the world, sustained by a disciplined life of prayer. The epistle reading addresses people who are in the midst of suffering, hurt, and need. They are enjoined to powerful hope for the time of God’s eventual and full triumph. The Gospel portrays the church under the power of God’s resolve, being given a wholly new identity and vocation in the world.
• Read Acts 1:6-14. Having received the power of the Holy Spirit, how is your life unfolding?
• Read Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35. When have you sensed God’s absence? How did you attempt to fill that void?
• Read 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11.When has God restored you?
• Read John 17:1-11. Where do you see Jesus as you go about your daily life?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.