There was enough optimism in me to be one of the 26.7 million South Africans who registered to vote but as election day draws closer, I cynically wonder if my vote on Wednesday 8 May will make any difference? It feels like I’ll simply be making my X in the sand, as the predictable waves of Corruption, Crime, and Racism make landfall, ensuring that our Beloved Country remains on its self-destructing trajectory. A good dose of the local news is enough to walk me down to the pub, and get me saying ‘cheers’ with all those who believe the fate of South Africa is sealed.

But, the life story of Jesus, challenges these fatalistic thoughts in me. The Carpenter’s acts of healing (John 5:1-9), forgiveness (Luke 23:32-34), reconciliation (John 21:15-17) and inclusivity (Matthew 19:13-15), remind me that the worst of humanity doesn’t have to have the final word in anybody’s story. Despite the gloomy forecast by those standing around the braai and the experts in school parking lots, there’s still hope for this prodigal country and its people. Hope is imminent but it will require more than just an X from me on election day. It is a hope looking for followers not fans.

I’M NOT A FAN OF JESUS

You see, Jesus never asked for fans but followers.

We live in an entertainment culture that tempts me to delegate the playing of the transformation ‘game’ to just a few, while the rest of us grab a seat, pop the corn, break out a beer and master the art of giving perfect instruction from the comfort of the stands. South Africa is not the latest series on Netflix or Showmax. It’s an unfolding script. A living story. One which Jesus invites me to participate in rather than watch from a safe distance.

There is just no room for fans in following Jesus.

READ THE SIGN: PLAYERS ONLY

Because of film I watched as a teenager, when I hear Jesus’ words of ‘Come, follow me’, I picture him in white robes walking along the shores of Galilee. Although this image is rooted in a historical context, I believe it is an unhelpful picture for me (and us) today. It romanticises what the journey of ‘following’ entails. Trust me, it’s no walk in the park or on the beach for that matter. It’s better for me (and I think you) to picture Jesus walking along the potholed roads of South Africa wearing a T-shirt which reads, Players Only.

This is a picture which scares the ‘Sundays only’ straight out of my Christianity!

It redefines my worship from singing a few songs once a week, to offering every moment of my day to the One who builds altars in a broken South Africa. It raises all kinds of uncomfortable in me when I accept that Jesus’ invitation to ‘Come, follow me’, is a daily invitation (not a once-off moment) to work out my salvation. ‘Sundays only’ and ‘once of moments’ are for fans. The everyday ‘working out’, well, that’s for Players.

And that ‘working out’ is difficult.

There are days (too many I confess) when I hear Jesus calling me off the bench.

“Xav, you got to get in there today, we, this country, this Kingdom, needs you. I chose you. Injustice is hitting us hard. Look at the state of that school. See that kid over there? She needs someone to defend her against that adult. Walk with me on the streets for a moment. Did you just hear what they said about them? Doesn’t that bother you? That exhausted, single mom over there, that’s your neighbour. This is the End Game Xav! Come on…follow me.”

All kinds of excuses rise up in me when I hear those words, but I know, like I know, that we’re all needed, and everyone is invited. Even me.

NO RETIREMENT FOR CHRISTIANS

Even though our politics may be a respecter of race, age, even history, Jesus isn’t. No one is excluded, no one is uninvited. It’s all hands-on deck, even when it feels like the ship is sinking.

I have to muster up enough faith and hope to believe that my story, if written today, would be include amongst the stories of the Bible. A story of fear, and no doubt failure but also a story of victory where God gets all the credit. God has and will always use you, no matter your age, colour or past. God doesn’t retire you from the game, even if others have.

MAKE SURE YOU VOTE…EVERY DAY

You see, Jesus tells me that my vote will count (even matter), but only if I’m committed to joining the players and embodying the values I’m voting for in my daily life.

Sure, governance is super important and so is leadership but sorry Bill, everything doesn’t rise and fall on leadership. It’s not just about one type of gift or a certain kind of person.

It’s about all of us.

Me choosing to vote for the living out of the Kingdom of God in my own life, now that’s a game changer. Everything does rise and fall on everyday South Africans making small but important choices towards the coming of God’s kingdom.

My X matters when I vote for a political party (and we all have our own ideas about which one) with the understanding that I’m also voting for the advancing of God’s kingdom in our country. It matters when I accept that the day after the elections, I’ve got to put on my Players only T-shirt and again have a go at living out all the things Jesus spoke about in my everyday circumstances….Monday to Sunday….it’s a full time gig.

My vote matters, if I understand that I’m really putting a cross against my own name. A cross which I pick up off the voter’s page and carry with me into the next day of living in South Africa.

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