It has happened again, the ever-active volcano of xenophobic attacks in South African townships erupted this past week.
There is a wide range of issues to be thought and talked about when it comes to the problem of xenophobia in South Africa. Should we tighten up immigration laws to limit the torrential influx of foreigners in our country? Do we have enough economic resources to accommodate our own local citizens as well as our visitors? Are these foreign-owned shops good or bad for our economy? Should these foreigners be viewed and received the same way our freedom fighters were sheltered in foreign countries during the dark days of Apartheid? Is this another struggle-debt we have to pay?
In God’s common grace, there are many politicians, economists and sociologists who are much better qualified to shed light on these issues than I am. My contention in this article is a simple one. These foreigners must go home.
Allow me to elucidate.
The God who Causes Calamities
Ultimately who is behind the poverty, the political and economical instabilities in the countries where these foreigners come from? We can blame the international ‘looters’ who plundered the Somalian coastline in the wake of the civil war for the poverty that has led many Somalians to seek refuge in our country. We can blame the Bangladeshi and Pakistani governments for the poverty and political instabilities that have made South Africa to be one of the destinations of choice for thousands of Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants.
Yes, all these factors have been instrumental in leading many foreigners to seek shelter within our borders. But ultimately it is God who reigns supreme over all these circumstances. He is ultimately behind the calamities that have devastated the countries from which our visitors have come.
In Isaiah 45:7 we read: “I form light and I create darkness, I make well-being and create calamities. I am the LORD, who does all these things."
Why God Causes Calamities
Is God then some heartless monarch who derives pleasure from seeing His subjects agonize and grieve? My intention is not to defend and justify God, as if I was some kind theological spin-doctor. God does not need to defend Himself or answer to anyone. As the potter, He has every right to do whatever He pleases with his clay.
However I am moved to share, from my limited understanding, that God often has gloriously salvific intentions in His causing of calamities.
Enter Ruth: A Moabite woman through whom Obed the grandfather of King David was born. So how did a Moabite, pagan woman come to be great grandmother to one of the greatest Kings in Israel? Famine!
In the Old Testament book named after her, Ruth came to be one of the people God as a result of a famine that had devastated the land of the Israelites. In short, the famine drove Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, to sojourn in Moab with his family. Elimelech and Naomi’s sons took Moabite wives. Ruth was one of them. Elimelech and His sons died. More calamities! So Naomi had to return home to Israel, and she took Ruth with her. This is how Ruth, a Moabite pagan, became one of the people of God, and great grandmother to King David, from whose line our Lord Jesus was born. So God caused the calamity of famine in the land of the Israelites in order to redeem Ruth, and through her, in the fullness of time, to bring us our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Again, consider the persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem as recorded in the New Testament book of Acts. Were it not for this calamitous persecution, the Christians would not have fled in all directions to other parts of the world. And had they not fled, the gospel would not have spread as widely as it did through their witness in all the places to which they had been dispersed.
God uses calamities, partly, to accomplish His salvific purposes to save a people for Himself from every tribe, tongue and nation, including Somalians and Bangladeshis.
We Must Show these Foreigners the Way Home
Could it be then, that God is using the calamities in the countries of our visitors, where the proclamation of the gospel is little to non-existent, in order to drive them to our country, so that those among them whom He has foreknown may hear the gospel and be saved.
Could it be that God is using the poverty and political unrest in their countries the same way that He used the famine in the land of Israel and the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire?
Could it be that He is calling some of these foreigners home? Home to Himself. Home to the new heavens and the new earth. I believe He is. Which means that we as Christians in South Africa have a duty and a privilege to be the instruments by which the Lord will save His elect among the foreigners He has sent to us. These foreigners must go home, and we must be the ones to show them that the way home to the Father is through Jesus!
This is why it is imperative that gospel-centered churches be planted and strengthened in our townships.
We might raise objections if we were called to go on a gospel mission to Bangladesh or Pakistan. Our fears might be justifiable if we declined a call to minister in Somalia. But see now what the Lord has done! Through calamity He has brought the mission field to our doorsteps. What objections or fears prevent us from going forth and telling, especially since we do not have to go further than the nearest Spaza to do so?