This Christmas is the 200 year anniversary of the Gospel being preached in this land! As we survey the last 200 years there is much that is grievous, especially in regards to relationships between those of European descent and those of Māori descent. There is also great hope and joy if we also take the time to remember the impact of the Gospel on these two peoples. It took some time before the Gospel took real traction among the Māori people but when it did it was transformative. God had already given a partial revelation of Himself to the Māori people and had prepared them to receive a fuller revelation through the preaching of the Gospel. Evidence of this transformation is still clear throughout the Māori culture today. For example Wairua Tapu (Holy Spirit) and Ihu Karaiti (Jesus Christ) are regularly honoured in karakia (prayer) because doing so is a Māori practice even in contexts where white New Zealanders usually no longer honour God.
While God was working among Māori people in the 19th century, He was situating people who feared Him in the Colonial Office in Britain. Because of the fear and love of God, these individuals had revolutionary ideas of indigenous people which included a desire for them to be treated with justice as people created in the image of God. These ideas were instrumental in the unique relationship the Crown initially formed with Māori and ultimately in the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Missionaries also had a role in the relationship between Māori and non-Māori, in the Treaty and sometimes in pleading with or challenging settlers who failed to honour the Treaty. Unfortunately the transforming power of the Gospel was often not evident in the actions of European settlers toward Māori.
As Christians today, Māori and Pākehā, we still have a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthinas 5). I am so fortunate that I know kaumatua (leaders) who have taken this calling seriously. I am noticing that many churches appear to be stirred to embrace this calling at this time. For myself I have seen my own predominantly white church respond to an invitation by these kaumatua to worship God on their marae. Two hundred of us showed up and the name of God and His Word was honoured throughout the Māori tikanga (appropriate behaviour) and powhiri (process of two groups greeting one another and receiving hospitality) as well as through worship in song. I see a new willingness to show deference to one another by honouring each other’s cultural expression of lifestyle and worship (Romans 12:10, some versions saying, “In honour giving preference to one another” while others state “show respect for one another”. I suspect Paul in mind had those who are different from ourselves when he challenged us to show respect.) I cannot help but consider Psalm 133. How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity… there God commands a blessing.
Standing on the edge of this anniversary I am convinced this nation will thrive when touched with God’s blessing. I suggest this subject matter would make the focus of some great lesson plans and New Zealand specific extension to the ACE curriculum with your children.