I was struck by the following quote from the late David Bosch, a South African missiologist who died in a motor vehicle accident in 1992. Bosch has written some wonderful books but is best remembered for his Transforming Mission which has been re-issued as a 20th anniversary edition (with a new preface by William Burrows, and a conclusion by Martin Reppenhagen & Darrell L. Guder – The Continuing Transformation of Mission: David J. Bosch’s Living Legacy: 1991 - 2011)
In the most recent print copy of the Englewood Review of Books ‘magazine; Ryan Bell reflected briefly on the lasting legacy of Bosch’s book while highlighting the new edition.
“…What gives Bosch’s life and work such unrivalled integrity is the way in which his thinking emerged not in the abstract setting of a university but in the context of apartheid in South Africa. He was born in 1929 into an Afrikaner home. He was a child of apartheid. It was only as Bosch began working to organize a worship service for black laborers on his parents’ farm that his mind began to change on the subject of race. It would take many years more for him to fully comprehend the evils of apartheid…”
He continued with a quote from Bosch, and it was this that most resonated for me, but in ways other than Bosch’s gradual acceptance of black / coloured South Africans.
In [Bosch’s] own words:
“Looking back now to that day, thirty years ago, I guess I can say that that was the beginning of a turning point in my life. Not that, from then on, I accepted Blacks fully as human beings. Far from it. But something began to stir in me that day, and all I can say is that, by the grace of God, it has been growing ever since. Gradually, year by year, my horizons widened and I began to see people who were different from me with new eyes, always more and more clearly. I began to discover the simple, self-evident fact, that the things we have in common are more than the things which divide us…” [Highlighting in bold text – mine]
What struck me was the gradual nature of grace – “gradually, year by year” writes Bosch. How often do we allow each other the space to change at the pace of God’s deep and transformative work in each other lives? I wonder if we’d be gentler with each other if we accepted the deep, slow, and often hidden work of transformative grace in each others lives.
I was struck too, as I often am, that so many times what people have in common and the ways they compliment each other – at their best – is greater than what divides and pulls them apart. How can we ever bring reconciliation, restoration, transformation and healing to global and national conflicts when we can’t even do that in healthy, freeing and life-giving ways at the level of individual relationships? How many times do we take the easier, often-times more damaging options, rather than the path of grace and shalom? It’s one of the great human paradoxes., and indeed, one of the great human tragedies.