Inspired by God’s extraordinary act of restoring and nurturing relationships through reconciliation.
In the early Christian Communities in Ephesus, Jewish and Gentile believers found it difficult to fellowship together. Ethnic differences loomed larger than the shared faith in their consideration of each other. They simply despised each other. The Jewish Christians were proud that they lived according the law and thus found grounds to despise the Non-Jewish or Gentile believers who lived outside the Jewish law.
The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2 vs 14 says ‘For he is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us (Ephesians 2 vs 4)’. In this he reconsiders these two different yet connected groups in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He powerfully asserts that through his death and resurrection, Jesus removed the barrier that separated them. This message is relevant to the people of Zimbabwe today. Ours has become a nation in which differences, distinctions, dislikes and disagreements between groups are emphasized over the things that unite and bring us together.
A cloud of mutual dislike and self-hate seems to hover over us. We find it increasingly difficult to agree with each other. Those who belong to one political party despise and hate those from another political party. Those who speak one language despise those who speak another language. Those who are rich despise those who are poor. Those who are poor envy those who are rich. The young despise and disrespect the old. The old in turn disregard the young. One Christian denomination despises another denomination. Married women despise single mothers, single mothers envy married women. In extreme cases, these divisions have resulted in violent conflict. We seem to have lost sight over the brighter future we all long to see in a united, peaceful, just and prosperous Zimbabwe – home of the continent’s brightest minds, the bread basket and indestructible house of stone.
In these times of receding hope and impending danger we seek refuge in the message of the Cross and Resurrection that says that relationships can be restored and the barriers that separates can be removed.
1.We cannot sweep conflicts and tensions under the carpet
More than half of new marriages are ending up in painful divorce. The abuse of our women through increasingly violent gender based violence is beyond comprehension. In January this year we witnessed the destruction of property worth millions and the deaths of more than ten Zimbabweans. These are symptoms of deeper hurts and fragmentations that can np longer be ignored. Here in Matabeleland and Midlands we remember what happened during Gukurahundi. We are glad that the President has now opened up that this ugly chapter of the past should be closed so that the hurts of the past can be healed. This can only happen if we confront that past with the truth as Jesus says in one place, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
All relationships get restored and healed if we are truthful we cannot sweep conflicts and tensions under the carpet, we cannot ignore the anger and resentment that come from past hurts. If we are to reconcile relationship we need to truthfully confront the ugly past cases of violence and hurt.
2. We must take responsibility
Often we wonder why it is that in a country with a majority populations estimated at upwards of 90% there is so much hurt and lack of care? The problem cannot be attributed to the 10% who do not know Christ and the commandment to ‘Love thy neighbour.’
It is often difficult to combine the work of apportioning blame with the healthy introspection that asks the questions ‘what could l have done better?’ and ‘how can l improve in the future?’ Without this humble introspection we consign our future and the work of collectively improving our situation to those whom we expect to change and improve on our behalf. This has never worked. Relationships get restored when everyone takes responsibility to heal relationships.
It is only when we respond to Gods’ love to us in Jesus Christ that, Gods’ love become real to us. In the same way we also need to take responsibility to building new relationship and to heal those which have been broken. We cannot wait for someone to heal us but we need to do it ourselves. Restoration of relationship is hard work and each one of us must take their part to heal this relationship.
3. Broken relationships get healed when we turn away from hurtful actions
Many Zimbabweans are living in fear of other Zimbabweans. This fear limits their ability to confront the future with confidence and contribute their best to the nation’s shared progress. They struggle to find security in the numerous relationships that define daily life and future prospects. Many children fear the very communities they are supposed to call home as the epidemic of child sexual abuse continues non stop. Too many women feel entrapped in the very relationships they are supposed to find warmth and affection. Some tribes fear to fully express and enjoy their cultural heritage held back by deep and lingering memories of unresolved hurts. Many individuals and groups with differing opinions and ideas about the future feel that no one is listening to their concerns and recommendations.
This is not to say that we have not made significant progress in our quest to be the Zimbabweans we want – a proud patriotic people at peace with each other living in a united, peaceful, just and prosperous land. But too many relationships are broken and fragmented: between the ruled and rulers; young and old; powerful and weak; haves and have nots; men and women.
Broken relationships get healed when we turn away from those things that affect relationships negatively. Repentance is a decision not to continue in the direction of hurt and conflict. It has a decision to say I am Sorry and I will work not to repeat the causes of pain and hurt. This is what we are going to need to move our nation forward. Relationships are nurtured by an attitude of ongoing repentance. Those who have hurt others in the past must humbly state that they are sorry and would want to receive forgiveness.
4. Relationships get restored where there is a reconciliation
Reconciliation is an Act of two parties who agree that they want to move together into the future.
Reconciliation is what God did in Jesus Christ for us according to 2 Corinthians Chapter 5 verse 18 the Apostle Paul says God reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ. No more counting peoples sins against them. This is how Zimbabwe is going to get healed, when those who were hurt have found the strength to forgive and open their arms to embrace those who hurt them.
Reconciliation is not just cheap pronouncement that I forgive you. It is a response of the heart of those who have received forgiveness from God. Without forgiveness those who have been hurt remains imprisoned in the past. That is why in Mathew 5 verse 23 Jesus says, “Therefore if you are offering your gift on the alter and there you remember that your brother or your sister has something against you, leave the gift on the Alter and first go reconcile to your brother and sister and then come and offer your gift.”
It is only in reconciliation that will open up the window of blessings on our nation. A nation stuck in hatred for past hurts will not be able to move forward together. Reconciliation is not only the burden of the victim but more so, the responsibility of the perpetrator.
Remember the prodigal son who had gone far away from his father but sought to come back. He found his place in the household because the father embraced and welcomed him. But he had to come home first. This is the message of God to us during this Easter that God himself through Christ became our peace and made groups that were separated into one and destroyed the barrier and dividing wall of hostility.
In these words of encouragement, go home and be reconciled to your wife, Go home and be reconciled to your husband, Go home and be reconciled to your sister and your brother, Go home and be reconciled to your mother and father, Go home and reconciled to your neighbor. As we read in Psalms 133 ‘how good and pleasant it is when Gods people live together in unity, for there the Lord bestows his blessings even life evermore.
May God bless Zimbabwe.
Source: Rev Dr Kenneth Mtata, Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC)