Africa get me to look differently at the Kingdom; My grandmother passed away

May 21, 2007

I’ve been listening to all this Kingdom of God talk. And really, I do believe this, but the reality of life tend to make it a bit difficult. I wonder what the Kingdom of God means? And what does the fraise “the kingdom of God is near” (eg. Luke 10:11) mean. Many are using it today, to say that it’s not only about heaven and the afterlife, but about the kingdom that need to come now. And I experience a major sense of optimism in many of the conversations about the kingdom of God being a social reality.
But my own reality cause me to struggle with this. What does the Kingdom of God mean to kids born with HIV? Does it mean we help them to survive as long as possible? Help them to have a quality life while they are alive? What does the Kingdom of God mean to someone who got killed by her boyfriend? How do I proclaim the Kingdom of God to my friend, since it was her cousin who was as close as a sister, and she doesn’t have any other brothers or sisters?
You talk about Kingdom of God being now, but lets face it: Most of the poor today will die poor. Millions will still die because of lack of food. The oppressed of today will still be oppressed tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of a “don’t worry about this eartly things, just get their buts into heaven” approach, but the words saying that the Kingdom of God is now (I don’t find then in the NIV, but have definitely heard some people quite it in this way, eg. Brian Mclaren and Graham Codrington) have been around for 2000 years, and when I look around me, I tend to only see spots of the Kingdom, in a see of misery.
Step by step we need to work with God to let the Kingdom of God come, not only one day, but today. But I’m not so sure of that is ever going to happen. Not if we keep the hope of a Kingdom without suffering.

I wrote the above while at a camp with a couple of kids from Oliefenhoutbosch, a very poor community near Sandton. Then something else happened last night which I need to mention. My grandmother, on my mother’s side, died at around 22:00. She was in her middle 80’s, and had a full life. While in her late 70’s she would still be part of the “old people’s ministry”, caring for the old people etc, some of the old people being younger than she was herself. She was one of the most amazing people I ever knew. You’d never find her saying bad things about others, or even losing her temper. She really loved people. But now it’s over. When the phone rang and I saw it was my dad, I just told Maryke, “It’s over”, and when I picked up the phone my dad said the exact same words: “It’s over”. Yes, I know many would want to remind me that it’s not over, but fact is, it is. My grandmother is gone. She believed with everything in her that she will be with her Maker when this day comes, and as for myself, I do believe that the relationship she had with God, with Jesus, will now continue forever. I guess I’m writing this because I need to write my thoughts down, and because it’s an important event in my life, and those following this blog would need to know about it to follow my thoughts. I’m also writing it down, because of the total contrast in how I felt about this, compared to what I wrote in the first part of this post. I think Maryke was very much uncomfortable last night, simply because I received the news so calmly. When realizing yesterday that it was coming to an end, I just had this calmness about it, and when I realized that it might happen within a few hours, as well. The thoughts of Stanley Hauerwas helped me a lot in this. To realize that it’s normal and OK to see people die well, and my grandmother died well. I can’t think of a better death for her. She had her children around her during the final hours, and her family was extremely important to her. Up to the end of her life, although physically she was very weak, she could have a quality life. She could enjoy music, had intelligent conversations, enjoyed the company of friends and family. She saw her kids grow up, outlived all her kids, she saw her grandchildren grow up, although one was buried a few years ago, and the rest sometimes gave her more grey hair, and saw her first few great-grandchildren being born.
By now you might have a picture of this wonderful woman, someone who had an amazing walk with God, and imprinted some of that relationship on my life. But I struggle to have the same feeling of calmness over the death of a kid with AIDS, over those dying because they simply don’t have food. I then wonder about all this talk about the Kingdom of God, maybe this earth will never see this Kingdom, although I can’t help but try and make it a bit more of a reality for a few people.

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5 Responses to “Africa get me to look differently at the Kingdom; My grandmother passed away”

  1. Glenn Says:

    Cobus…

    The death of someone we love has the potential to be one of those key moments of our life. Fortunately, you were blessed with a wonderful grandma.

    Being the evidence that God’s kingdom is here and now will always be a challenging task that calls us to prayer, pondering, and fresh thinking because there are so many “hopeless” situations.

    Maybe your troubled heart and your beginning the conversation is part of being the kingdom here and now.

    Thanks.

  2. cobus Says:

    Sometimes I just wonder if we aren’t over-optimistic, that the Kingdom will never come on this earth (yes, I know I might sound like just opening up the classic evangelicals/ecumenicals argument, that’s not what I’m trying though), that we can only see signs of the Kingdom appearing…


  3. […] You talk about Kingdom of God being now, but lets face it: Most of the poor today will die poor. Millions will still die because of lack of food. The oppressed of today will still be oppressed tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor of a “don’t worry about this earthly things, just get their buts into heaven” approach, but the words saying that the Kingdom of God is now (I don’t find then in the NIV, but have definitely heard some people quite it in this way, e.g., Brian McLaren and Graham Codrington) have been around for 2000 years, and when I look around me, I tend to only see spots of the Kingdom, in a sea of misery.  (more) […]

  4. Kowie Says:

    Cobus,
    Wat jy aanraak is nie juis ‘n maklike onderwerp nie. Ons wil so graag die hemel hier op aarde sien. Wil so graag sien hoe dinge verbeter. persoonlik kry ek nerens dat God se of aantoon dat Hy dit lekker sal maak op aarde nie. Die krisisse en chaos op aarde is agv die feit dat sonde in die wereld is. God belowe egter – male sonder tel – om langs elkeen te loop deur alle probleme en chaos wat in Hom glo. Hy maak die bad draaglik – die rewards is nie in hierdie lewe nie, maar in die lewe hierna. Ja, ek weet die vraag is – en wat van die laaitie wat Aids het en die kleintjie wat ‘n parapleeg is, en die ou tannie wat onder ‘n dun kombers in hierdie koue in ‘n tydelike skuiling is? Is dit hulle skuld? Moontlik nie, maar bad goed wat met jou gebeur is nie noodwendig jou skuld nie. Jou en my taak is om soveel moontlik van die mense te bereik om Jesus as handreling deur hierdie chaos aan hulle bekend te stel – sodat hulle daaraan kan vashou terwyl hulle voortsukkel. Hulle reward is vorentoe. Sorry vir die idealisme, maar is hoe dit in my hart se.
    Groete


  5. […] not yet sure what this view would say. I gave some of my thoughts about the kingdom of God here, and maybe that would explain why I’m saying this. This view concerns itself with society, […]


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