Missed Opportunity

The winning of the AFCON Cup by the Zambian soccer team was a practical step toward charting a better course for our future. By using their God-given talents and by publicly professing their faith in God the team gave the world a profound perspective on our Judeo-Christian beliefs. Their performance speaks to us about what can be achieved when people are united and have a purpose.  Sadly, at our victory ceremony at the Lusaka Agriculture Show Ground we failed to capitalize on the momentum of the victory by explaining to the crowd how this victory fit into the mission of our nation. Most of the 200,000 people at that gathering where impoverished Zambians who live in informal townships without proper sanitation, clean water or quality education. We could have used the celebration to encourage all who are poor, weak and powerless to learn from the determination of this victorious soccer team. I think the PF government missed a great opportunity to engage the nation on how their party’s values, mission, vision and strategy are beginning to change the culture of under achievers to victors.

In 1995 South Africa had a similar opportunity when it hosted and won the Rugby World Cup.  Nelson Mandela used the victory in the Rugby World Cup to unite South Africa. To millions of white South Africans, the green shirt with its springbok emblem had come to embody the supremacy and dominance of decades of white rule. Conversely, to black South Africans, the green shirt with its springbok emblem symbolized the pain and indignities of decades of white rule. Therefore, it was no small act when Mandela strode onto the field wearing the springbok shirt and cap to the chant “Nelson! Nelson!” from the largely white crowd. With that one gesture, Mandela reassured the whites, many whom had thought of him as a terrorist, of their place in the new South Africa. With that one bold step, Mandela gave a practical lesson to millions of blacks watching the game on television that the doorway to enjoying the values of peace, prosperity, and unity in a new South Africa would be by letting go off past offenses.

2000 years ago Jesus often took the occasions of the Jewish ceremonies of the feasts to explain His mission.  For example at the Passover feast Jesus used the opportunity to let the people know that He was the “bread of life” (John 6:35) implying that just as bread must be eaten to sustain physical life, Christ must be invited into our life to sustain spiritual life.  The masses saw Jesus as the fulfilling of the prophecy by Moses (Deut. 18:15) and wanted to make him king. Christ’s message however, was not accepted by the religious leaders of that day because they saw him only as a carpenter from Nazareth. It was also at this period that many of his followers deserted him because they realized he was not going to be the Messiah–King they expected but the suffering servant; He refused to give in to their self-centered requests and they did not like what he taught; He emphasized faith not deeds.

Each Easter, the church has an opportunity to show what the death and resurrection of Christ means to the believing family and to those outside. In doing so, we must not ignore the unpopular teaching on sacrifice, servant leadership, compassion and justice and the reality of eternal life. There is no middle ground with Jesus. He invites us all to have the courage to act on His truth. As Peter put it, “To whom would we go?” Jesus alone has the words of eternal life. May God help us to preach Him as never before that those who do not know Him will come to Him.  May we who know Him remain closer still.