When I was in university, on at least two occasions I had folks from the two political parties approaching me to be involved in their ranks and the broader university politics. Now to be clear, these conversations were not official or formal - they were peer to peer conversations were these people were selling their political ideas to me with hopes I could be involved. I declined unreservedly. But the truth of the matter is that my heart has always had a huge pull towards politics, and in another life, I could see myself pursuing it.
Here is my basic confession: when asked about what I would do in another life if I wasn't in ministry my typical answer would be I would do journalism, which I studied for, but in reality, one of the strongest pulls in my heart for the last 6 or so years has been politics, and I honestly have just never had the guts to step into it and do it, but also, I do not see it as my primary call in the world at all. I have no doubt that I am called to preach the gospel for the rest of my life, by God's grace. I am not interested in anything else.
When I was very young, my dad got me introduced to the reality of the world at large. As a kid I had vast interest in current affairs, and thanks to my father's mentoring, many days I would sit down in between his legs as he sat on the couch as we watched the news. My mother hated our never ending watching of the news - I remember that vividly. And her apparent "dislike" of it, caused me to see a very apparent pull towards the affairs of humanity.
I grew up in police camps where a strong sense of justice was always in the air. If we are going to play a soccer match, what we called umbhejo (a game of soccer you play with money on the line as the prize for the winner), things had to be done right or else a fight would erupt. I remember back in Queens Park East in the early 2000s there was great rivalry between our team (the kids from the camp) and the team from the residences near the shops. We fought a couple of times, and yours truly might or might have not thrown bricks at other kids. Yours truly might or might have not fought many a fights - many-times being beaten by older kids, because that environment was "do it right, or dude we fight".
See, what we think about fighting as kids seems to always affect what we think about fighting as adults. When kids fight in school because one kid said something bad to them, that kid will use fighting as a means of "communicating" their power. But other kids fight to protect themselves, however unjustifiably it is. Think of a boy who fights the older boy who is bullying his little sister at school. That boy is fighting, yes, but he does not view fighting as a means to offend others, but as a line of defence. The more I think about it - when I was a kid fighting went both these ways but the one that stuck with me was the latter.
When I got to Queens Park East from Emakhandeni in 1998, I was taken by the older boys to an open field and was told that I had to fight the "best fighter" amongst all boys my age in the hood. His name was Victor. Super light-skin dude. Bold head. And strong as a wild ox. We fought. And you know what happened right? He beat me. So, he remained undefeated. This was some sort of initiation into the hood - a way which boys would be "welcomed" into the squad. As time went on though, once you are initiated into the circle, you become a part - in fact, these same dudes become your line of defence against "others" from outside.
But I saw integrity in how these hood dudes handled themselves as time went on. Fighting was never taken flippantly. We fought for what was right, using fists and stones. I will not justify any of this or encourage it, but without a doubt my sense of "justice" came from this very orientation at a young age. If one of us was mistreated, we wanted to fight back. If one of us was down, we wanted to get to them to pick it up.
Do not get me wrong - we did a lot of silly stuff, as all boys do, but our orientation, in hindsight was not too shabby in how it made us view and think of the vulnerable and "needy".
Another huge influence of my father was how he told me from a very young age that "I was a leader". I remember him talking to me - I must have been ten or eleven years of age - saying our family has always produced leaders, no fancy titles, but the men from our family have always taken responsibility for others and have been trusted with leadership in various ways. And he told me that I should be responsible. He told me its in my blood. The obvious thing is he wasn't saved at this point so maybe his point of departure could have been better but what he basically meant was he expected me to be responsible and exemplary. I didn't take it any seriously, but true to form, I somewhat always got to be chosen to lead many times in my life. And these opportunities allowed me to serve people in ways that I am super thankful for to this day.
One of my favourite opportunities to lead was when I was made school head boy at St. Columba's High School. As a new believer then, I had a platform to exemplify what it meant to follow Jesus and share him with my peers. And this I did, by God's grace. And the opportunity to serve my peers and my school in this way will always be a fond memory in my heart.
So, when these dudes are talking to me in university about getting involved in politics, a real pull exists in my heart and disposition. A strong sense of justice - things should be done right, and a father's encouragement to serve and be responsible, and other affirmations from others were a real thing. With time, as my political IQ grew, so did my wonder on whether I should serve my city or country in this way. A couple of times I have even encouraged my own father to run for offices so I could live vicariously through him. One of my brothers who has political ambitions has always said he will offer me a job in the State House someday when he runs for president and takes up that role. Love his ambition to serve our country!
My desire to see people's lives improved will be finally realised in its fullness in the new heavens and new earth, that is for sure. But a growing disenchantment with the status quo has often made me wander what my role is in all the issues of the world. Look, maybe I absolutely do not have any role politically in this world, ever. And I am okay with that. But I do desire to serve people, or see leaders rise that will serve our generation and the ones to come after that.
The funny this is this: I know that to preach the gospel is the greatest way to serve people and save from from eternal suffering, yet I must also, in the same breath, admit and confess of the gnawing in my heart to serve them in other socio-political ways too. During the last elections in Zimbabwe, I was super conflicted. Outside of talking about how to alleviate eternal suffering, the conversations that give me life are those about what actual actions we can take to alleviate as much suffering as we can in a post-Genesis 3 world.
I am not naive to the fact that we wont solve all the world's problems, but I wonder daily how the gospel is compelling me to be serve Jesus in the broader secular world through its proclamation and my living it out.