The conversation between indigenous and non-indigenous Christians is underscored by appeals for reconciliation. But nobody is telling us what reconciliation looks likes — what exactly everybody wants as an outcome. Maybe we should be reconciled with each other in God’s way and with God’s result.
The scriptures tell us that God gave a specific explanation to Adam and later Noah, after the flood, as to why He created humans. Our job was, and is, to keep and till the land to God’s satisfaction and our benefit (Gen.1:28, 2:15). All nations have a tribal memory of this, some more than others. Sadly, humans lost their close relationship with the Lord and did not run things the way He wanted. But God was set on His original plan and, over time, He took action to rebuild His relationship with us.
He started with the man Abraham, a descendent of the great patriarch Shem, the first born of Noah. God promised Abraham that his seed would be like grains of sand on the beaches, and that He would give him some land to manage. God set this arrangement in place as an eternal arrangement, not only with Abraham, but also with his descendants. (Gen.17:7-8)
The descendants of Abraham got a bit lost in the battle and finished up as slaves in Egypt. But God remembered His covenant and led them out miraculously; first into the wilderness to learn how to trust Him for their health, their daily supply and protection in the ongoing spiritual battle (the devil and his angels being on the land).
Eventually they reached and occupied the land that He had promised Abraham, and the land was distributed first to tribes, and then to individual households. To help things along, on Mount Sinai, God spelled out in great detail how He wanted His land managed. These arrangements we can call the covenant of choices and outcomes: do the right thing and you will get the right result; do the wrong thing and things will not go well with you (Deut. 28:1 and 15).
Things did not go well for Israel. The enemy infiltrated the nation, with sad results. In the midst of this, God found a man called David and made another eternal covenant with him and his seed (II Sam.7:12-16). This covenant approved the building of a house for the Lord, and set up an arrangement whereby God would not abandon us when we went off-track, but would bring His disciplines upon us to keep us in the way.
Finally, in due time, God sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, to show us God’s nature, to demonstrate what it means to be a son of God, and to do what was necessary to deal with our regrettable past. The scripture is clear, Jesus is the seed of Abraham and the seed of David: and as such is the inheritor of the two eternal covenants (Matt. 1:1). The door is now open for any human to receive the Holy Spirit, to live out their life as God’s son and a co-inheritor of the covenant promises!!! All of this is explained in a New Covenant that God first announced through Jeremiah. Later, it was picked up by the writer to the Hebrews (Jer. 31:33-34, Heb. 8:10-12)!! (Note that the Mt Sinai covenant faded away after the New Covenant was instated — Heb.8:13). The New Covenant tells us exactly how God sees reconciliation working:
This is the covenant that I will make with them… says the Lord: I will put my laws into their hearts and in their minds… and their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.
Reconciliation begins with the understanding that ‘… if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new’ (read 2 Corinthians 5:16-19). Reconciliation does not occur by making amends for the past — it begins by putting the past completely behind us!
After that, we are free to make no distinction between people of different ethnic backgrounds and cultures. I do not greet a believer with an indigenous background as ‘Aboriginal Christian’, I greet them, male or female, as a son of God and a brother in Christ (Gal. 3:26-29). And I am prepared to love them as I was commanded, not just in word but in deeds. I have spent sixty-three years of professional life assisting people who needed help with their personal agency or building a viable business to support their family, both in Australia and across the continent of Africa.
I was called by God to work in Africa for forty-two years. I have many brethren in Africa, especially in Malawi. I had the privilege of taking the first indigenous Australian to Malawi in 2001. One evening, some black Malawians and white Australians came together in unity in a cottage on Mt Zomba, and the Australian Aboriginal brother shared a testimony.
First, he encouraged us by sharing how he had received a personal revelation of the New Covenant the day before on that mountain. (How brilliant was that!). Then he handed out white T-shirts that had the Aboriginal flag printed on them. He told us how he used to march for reconciliation in Australia; that is, until he realised that the black on the flag was not the indigenous people but the sin of all men, and the red on the flag was not indigenous blood but the blood of Jesus who died for all men! We, Malawians and Australians, were both greatly blessed!
Let us move on brothers and sisters. Let us greet each other as sinners saved by incredible grace. Jesus brought in the reconciliation by exchanging Himself for all of us (kat-alasso – 2 Cor. 5:19) so that our Father’s Kingdom might be restored in the cosmos which He loves (John 3:16). There is a job to do! First the repentance and the time of refreshing; then the restoration of all things (Acts 3:19-21). Forward!
[Photo by Dimitri Houtteman