Two weeks ago, I joined the Facebook group #ImStaying on the invite of a trusted friend. I checked out the ‘about’, glanced at a few of the posts, and initially thought, “Well, this is lekker.” I wasn’t alone in my thinking. 588 000 South Africans (and counting) are now following the group founded by real estate entrepreneur Jarette Petzer.
But not all of Mzansi is buying the positivity hype of the ‘feel-good’ posts and stories. Blogger Brett Anderson typifies this sentiment:
“So yes, you are staying, but are you willing to do the hard, uncomfortable, awkward, time-consuming, costly work that is needed to turn this country around? And can you lay your defensiveness to the side long enough to hear the pain, fears, dehumanisations and negative experiences of others? Or does that interrupt the melody of the Kumbaya tune that you are trying to play?”
These questions got me thinking, so I thought I’d add one more to the mix: “Would Jesus join #ImStaying?”
FOR THE LOVE OF CHOICE
From the beginning (and I mean the very beginning), Jesus delighted in giving us the freedom of choice. Every page of the Bible is saturated with the ancient divine law of ‘They shall have choice.’
#ImStaying is founded on the very premise of choice. The choice to stay in South Africa or not, and the choice to adopt a positive outlook or not. Granted, the majority of South Africans don’t have the choice to leave this country and an ethereal positivity isn’t enough to bring about the needed transformation. But when we choose to look for the good in ourselves and the good in others, we step closer to hearing the divine DNA of our humanity.
A DNA that has the potential to choose to love another unconditionally, even when it comes at the cost to ourselves.
FOR THE LOVE OF HOPE
When you talk about South Africa to others, what story do you tell? Perhaps even more importantly, how does the story you tell end? Does it end with a country in ruin?
The Bible is steeped in realism, giving any interested reader an alarming look into the worst of ourselves. No wonder parents are selective about which stories they choose to read to their children at night!
However, the ‘it’s going to end badly’ narrative is constantly interrupted by the heavenly power of hope. Amidst all the stories in Scripture of murder, violence, greed and injustice, Hope stands firm and with great determination declares to evil, ‘You shalt not pass!’
Petzer expresses a similar notion: “The group serves one purpose and that’s to push a positive narrative. The group is there to inspire people, to give people hope, and to give people a place where they can come, and they can share their stories and we can share in our humanity”
Even though our eyes must never become blind to the realities of what is going in our Beloved country, our distant gaze must always fall on the Rocky Balboa of Scripture, Hope.
FOR THE LOVE OF COMMUNITY
In a recent interview on the morning breakfast show, Expresso, Petzer hinted that there were plans to give the online community of #ImStaying opportunities to gather together in real life. I like that and I think Jesus would too.
It’s easy to ‘like’ an online group, glance at some of the posts from time to time, even add a comment or share a story. It’s nothing more than a bit of time and the use of our fingers. But it’s something altogether different to prioritise a real-time gathering above other commitments, make the necessary arrangements, climb in a car or catch a taxi and come shoulder to shoulder with the not so close neighbours of this Rainbow Nation.
The Trinitarian nature of God reminds us that God is the author of community. The start of the early church reminds us that God celebrates the diversity of community. And the Incarnation reminds us that God is for a community that meets in the real-time and space of a place.
ANSWER THE QUESTION
So, would Jesus join #ImStaying? I think so (although you may disagree). And then, as always, He will take our good intentions and mould them with His love, grace and mercy, making perfect that which is perfectly incomplete.
Two thousand years ago Satan asked Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, #areyoustaying? Not only did Jesus stay, but He also showed South Africa and all of humanity the way forward: #willyoufollowme?
Now you, answer the question.