One greeting and a whole lot of thinking


She’s an expert gardener. All her gardens are always a work of art.

Dressed in dirty faded khaki pants with battered burgundy leather shoes, the man, a Zimbabwean, laboured with spade in hand, hacking away at an overgrown flower bed, edging it. He looked every part the gardener.

He smiled faintly when he saw me. Flickering in the back of my mind was a vague recollection. I thought might know him.

“Hi there,” I asked. “How you doing?”

“I’m fine thanks Mark,” came the reply.

mmm, I hate that: he knew my name and I didn’t know his.

We exchanged platitudes and I wondered off into the grounds a little irritated with myself.

Friends who had recently moved into the neighbourhood had invited us for lunch at their house. The plan was to eat outside under a lovely Silver Birch near a small fish pond. I made my way there and helped deck the table and fire up the electric braai.

While enjoying some good Vrystaat wors and an ice cold beer someone said, “Can you believe that the gardener is actually a primary school teacher.”

How sad.

The country I live in neighbours Zimbabwe. Over the past few years politics has created a climate of economic instability in that country which has in turn created millions of economic refugees (5 million to be exactish). These men, woman and children have moved across to bordering countries like Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa. The South African government, although signees of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees has chosen, through the slowing of State organs, not to grant immunity or privileges to these destitute, improvised and vulnerable people further exacerbating their difficulties.

Turns out I had recognised the man because he had been attending the church where I worship for the last few weeks. Why he knew my name and I didn’t know his is something that I’ve been considering ever since.

Actually, if I were to be honest, it’s more than just the name thing that’s bothering me. A teacher having to work for a pittance as a domestic gardener because our government offers him little other choice – how degrading. The vast difference between the opportunities offered to Black and White people in Africa and the world – how unjust. The prejudiced distinctions which we still draw along social and economic class in South Africa (and sometimes even in our church) – how utterly disappointing.

As I’ve been unpacking these thoughts a few verses have helped me work through the ideas in my mind.

For starters, Paul, writing to the Galatians about equality and faith, chapter 3 verses 28 – 29, says:

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”

So, as far as salvation is concerned, we’re all the same.

James, who appears to be speaking to a church which has some of the problems that I am thinking around says,

1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor person in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the one wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the one who is poor, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” *

How do you relate to people that are different to you? Do you ever have the opportunity to relate to people that are different to you?

* I stick to either the King James Version or New American Standard Bible for quotations. In fact this is the first time that I’m aware of that I’ve used anything else so it’s worthy of a footnote. It’s 12pm and after reading a few different texts I decided that the Today’s New International Version was the easiest to understand. Have I broken a golden rule? Is it going to be a short slippery slop for me from here? Does anyone care?

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4 thoughts on “One greeting and a whole lot of thinking

  1. That was another suberbly written and very thought provoking article that I got a lot out of.
    From, the chairman of your fan club!

  2. Dude, you are just a few steps from sporting a faux-hawk and giving messages from The Message: Remix with the occasional cuss word added to show you are down with current culture. Just thought I’d warn you.

    And I totally agree with this post… we need to treat each other “better than ourselves” like in Philippians 2:3.

  3. I agree with Rob, brilliant story Mark. I have for the last two years read the TNIV and have compared it with some passages (tested this week on Esther) from other bibles and I am really enjoying the TNIV…hope I am not a *slip slop too ;-)

    *check your last sentence

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