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“I had to start making peace with my brother whom I had hurt”

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“Frank, please would you allow me to wash your feet?”

Frank Chikane was one of apartheid’s targets, and Adriaan Vlok was South African apartheid government’s most notorious police minister. When Vlok became a believer, things changed. Riveting story:

Vlok began to quake. As he realized what he was about to do, all the loathing and feelings of superiority inculcated in him since boyhood suddenly rose to the surface. “I’d grown up thinking it should be the other way around: that blacks should be serving whites,” he thought to himself. Waves of physical disgust at the thought of touching Chikane’s toes surged through him.

Fortunately, he had anticipated his own weakness and prepared an explanatory message for the moment, in case he couldn’t find the words to speak. He’d written it on the front flyleaf of a Bible. It read: “I HAVE SINNED AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST YOU! WILL YOU FORGIVE ME?” Silently, he handed the Bible to Chikane, pulled a rag and bowl out of his briefcase, slid off the chair onto his knees, and bowed his head. Finally, stutteringly, he asked Chikane, “Frank, please, would you allow me to wash your feet?”

Chikane sat back in his chair, and in his confusion, he laughed. “But why would you want to do that?”

“I must humble myself before you,” Vlok murmured. “For what we did, for what we were trying to do.”

Chikane’s grin vanished. “I can see you are really serious,” he said. He leaned forward in his chair, removed his shoes, and peeled off his black socks. With a quivering hand, Vlok took a glass of water off Chikane’s desk, poured it into the basin, sprinkled it onto Chikane’s naked toes, and dried them carefully with the rag. And then both men dissolved into tears.

Vlok’s transformation began when some men from the Gideons invited him to dinner.

The TRC had just informed him it would call him up to testify about his time as police chief, and he worried the association would cast disgrace on the group. “I said, ‘I have got a bad history. Horrible stories will come out!’”

“And they said, ‘Look at the Bible. Moses killed a person, and the Lord used him. David committed adultery, and he killed people, and the Lord used him. Do you still say no?’ So I joined them.”

As a believer, he began to read the Bible twice daily: the Old Testament in the morning and the New in the evening.

But one particular passage from the book of Matthew caught his attention. He found himself returning to it over and over, increasingly troubled. At the café, he flipped to the passage for me and began to read aloud. It was from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple,” Jesus says, “and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Only then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

Vlok snapped the Bible closed. “I realized,” he said, “I had to start making peace with my brother whom I had hurt.”

Unsurprisingly, his actions have been controversial:

When the news of his foot-washing episode went public after Chikane talked about it in a sermon, Vlok became not an Afrikaner hero but an object of withering hate and contempt. One white op-ed writer called Vlok “ridiculous”; another, a “quivering dog.” An Afrikaner friend of mine pronounced him a “traitor.”

In 2007, a prominent Afrikaner comedian named Pieter-Dirk Uys opened his one-man revue with a parody of Adriaan Vlok. Sporting a replica of Vlok’s signature geeky glasses, Uys trudged out onstage hunched over and clutching a dirty rag, then walked into the audience and made to pull off an audience member’s shoes. He did it all silently: Before his predominantly white audience, there was no need to say a word; the ridiculousness of Vlok’s action spoke for itself.

Black South Africans have responded with suspicion at times, too. “It’s not entirely of symbolic coincidence,” T. O. Molefe, a political essayist said, “that, when he washed his victims’ feet, he washed his own hands, too.”

Clearly, however, Vlok’s actions are not in an effort to pay for his sins but in response to a price Someone else has paid. “After I die, yes, yes, the Lord will sit in judgment,” he told the reporter. “But Jesus will be there next to me. If anyone accuses me, He will say: ‘But I already paid the price.’ ”

Read the whole thing.




Four Ways to Forbear

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When giving guidance on life with others, Paul said we should be busy “forbearing one another and forgiving one another,” as the King James puts it (Colossians 3:13).

Between the two, you’re going to have to forbear a lot more than forgive.

Across my years, I’ve heard a lot of sermons on forgiveness, I’ve read a lot of books on forgiveness, and I’ve been inspired by a lot of dramatic stories about forgiveness — but it’s forbearance that is demanded of us a lot more often. Think about it:

If you forgive your marriage partner for adultery, that may become the subject of a magazine article. But you won’t have to struggle to forgive something like that near as much as you have to forbear your husband’s irritating habit of using the remote to switch between three shows at a time!

Or, if you forgive your father’s murderer, people will want to write a book about you, but you may never be faced with that. And yet every day you’re called on to bear up under your roommate’s inability to leave the kitchen as clean as you’d prefer it.

Both forgiveness and forbearance are required of Christians, but it’s forbearance that is called for hundreds of times more often than forgiveness.

How can you increase your capacity for forbearance? You pay attention to four things.

Personality. Some are introverts, others are extroverts. In making decisions, some are rational and others are spontaneous. Not everyone thinks like us, reacts like us, or communicates like us. The more we are sensitive to this, the better we can forbear annoyances.

Perspective. As the old saying goes, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” The old proverb advises us to see things as others see them.

Progress. We can be more patient with people if we take into account where they are in their physical and emotional and spiritual progress.

Problems. So much of someone else’s behavior that frustrates us is behavior that springs from the stuff they’re dealing with.




“Tears seem a small enough thing”

Weeping seems to accompany repentance most times. No wonder. Could you reach deep in yourself to locate that organ containing delusions about your general size in the world–could you lay hold of this and dredge it from your chest and look it over in daylight–well, it's no wonder people would rather not. Tears seem a small enough thing.

Reuben Land

Leif Enger's Peace Like a River

 




Don’t You Want to Thank Someone?

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Sometimes a spiritual search begins because life feels empty, but sometimes a spiritual search begins when life feels full and richly satisfying.

That’s what one young woman taught me in one of my Anchor classes. From the first chapter of The Anchor Course:

Whenever I lead small-group studies for seekers, as I talk about the need to find a way to fill the gap in life’s unfinished puzzle, most people nod in solemn agreement. For many in attendance, life has become frustrating without knowing what it’s all for. But I vividly remember one young woman in one of my study groups. As others shared their desire to find something that would give meaning to life, she said, “I have a different reason to be part of this study. I just had a baby and my life is filled with so much joy. I want to know who to thank.”

What a profound statement! This young woman recognized that much of the wonder and joy in her life could not be attributed to anything she had earned. Perhaps for the first time in her life, she felt an overwhelming sense of what could only be described as gratitude, and for her that implied a Giver. It led her on a search for someone to thank.

We can be like pigs that came upon apples on the ground: we can enjoy the sweet things of life without ever looking up to see where they came from. That is, too many of us react to the good things that happen to us with a sense of entitlement instead of a sense of wonder and humble gratitude.

It’s true that a lot of people experience unfair pain and disappointment, and later in the book we’ll look at how believers reconcile that with Jesus’ teaching that God is both good and great. But we are not looking at all the facts if we simply point to the undeserved heartbreaks of life and conclude that an attentive God doesn’t exist. We have to take into account the undeserved joys of life, too. When we do, like the young woman with her new baby, we will ask, “I want to know if there’s someone to thank for all this.”

David, the beloved poet-king of the Old Testament, had someone to thank. In one of his poems, overwhelmed with a sense of wonder and gratitude, he said to himself,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits.”
(Psalms 103:2 NASB)

I thought of this young mom’s insight while listening to Andrew Peterson’s new song, “Don’t You Want to Thank Someone” (Light for the Lost Boy). At just shy of 10 minutes long, don’t expect to hear it on Christian radio. But what a moving song. I’ll post the video, but first take in the lyrics alone.

Notice how he begins by reminding us that in the midst of our hardships there are glimpses of grace and beauty that prompts gratitude (or should).

Then he moves from the world’s brokenness to our personal brokenness. Even here, though, there is the freshness of forgiveness that provokes gratitude (or should).

But then the mood shifts. You can catch it in the key change when you listen to the video. Because no matter how rich and good life can be here, there’s so much more to come. So much more good, so much more glory. And that’s the basis of the highest thankfulness.

Here are the lyrics, and then the video:

Can’t you feel it in your bones
Something isn’t right here
Something that you’ve always known
But you don’t know why

‘Cause every time the sun goes down
We face another night here
Waiting for the world to spin around
Just to survive

But when you see the morning sun
Burning through a silver mist
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Don’t you ever wonder why
In spite of all that’s wrong here
There’s still so much that goes so right
And beauty abounds?

‘Cause sometimes when you walk outside
The air is full of song here
The thunder rolls and the baby sighs
And the rain comes down

And when you see the spring has come
And it warms you like a mother’s kiss
Don’t you want to thank someone?
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

I used to be a little boy
As golden as a sunrise
Breaking over Illinois
When the corn was tall

Yeah, but every little boy grows up
And he’s haunted by the heart that died
Longing for the world that was
Before the Fall

Oh, but then forgiveness comes
A grace that I cannot resist
And I just want to thank someone
I just want to thank someone for this

Now I can see the world is charged
It’s glimmering with promises
Written in a script of stars
Dripping from prophets’ lips

But still, my thirst is never slaked
I am hounded by a restlessness
Eaten by this endless ache
But still I will give thanks for this

‘Cause I can see it in the seas of wheat
I can feel it when the horses run
It’s howling in the snowy peaks
It’s blazing in the midnight sun

Just behind a veil of wind
A million angels waiting in the wings
A swirling storm of cherubim
Making ready for the Reckoning

Oh, how long, how long?
Oh, sing on, sing on

And when the world is new again
And the children of the King
Are ancient in their youth again
Maybe it’s a better thing
A better thing

To be more than merely innocent
But to be broken then redeemed by love
Maybe this old world is bent
But it’s waking up
And I’m waking up

‘Cause I can hear the voice of one
He’s crying in the wilderness
“Make ready for the Kingdom Come”
Don’t you want to thank someone for this?

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallalujah! Hallelujah!
Come back soon
Come back soon




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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