"He looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." – Hebrews 11:10.
This was my third visit to South Africa. I first visited just after the end of apartheid immediately following the first democratic elections in 1994. I returned again in 2001 joining former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in constructing 100 homes in Durban as part of a Habitat for Humanity blitz build.
Today, along with other members of our delegation, I visited the office of the President of South Africa and met with his chief of Staff, Frank Chikane. We spent much of our time with him discussing South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The TRC is South Africa's unique contribution to the world as it addresses wrongs suffered at the hands of others by righting those wrongs in the sand and affirming historical acts of mercy and fairness by writing those acts on stone. The TRC developed a process of dealing with the evils of 50 years of apartheid that avoids both cheap grace and retaliatory and debilitating injustice.
A phrase Rev. Chikane used in describing the work of the commission stands out for me: "We refused to use the past to destroy the future. While we had the capacity to obliterate each other, we had a greater desire to save the country we all love."
It seems that a generation of South African leaders has learned that their own suffering could indeed become redemptive. While others meant it for evil, these leaders emptied themselves of self and opened themselves to any alternative future.
I praise God for the relatively bloodless revolution that turned apartheid on its head. I pray that we too can open ourselves to a fruitful future by turning our backs on every painful past that threatens our life in Christ together.