“The issue is not the abundance of sin, but the scarcity of light. It’s not that the world has become more wicked, but that the number of “saltless” people in the world has greatly increased” – Kelvin Namwanza-
A few months ago a friend of mine invited me to a braai and while there we got to discuss a number of issues. One of the topics which predominated was based on African politics and the state of leadership in Africa. Different suggestions were brought forward as to how our governments in Africa can be changed so that those elected into power can effectively serve the interests of the people.
One of the predominant suggestions as usual having been in the company of Christians that afternoon, was to continue praying for those in power, to which I responded with a question, “Is continuing to pray all we can do as Christians?”
My questioning was really rhetoric at that moment as I pondered on how often we as Christians tend to almost impulsively respond with that line, “let’s continue to pray about it”. In many religious circles, prayer or praying for leaders is often highly recommended. However that afternoon, I came to the conclusion that most people use prayer to escape responsibility.
Since that very same afternoon, I have also been reminded how generally when you look at the topic of Faith, most Christians view Faith as a means to receive things from God only, and hardly as the means to please God. If people saw Faith as the means to please God, most of us would have acted in Faith and taken huge steps towards societal transformation so as to honour Him. We have a faith that can believe God for cars but not the Faith that can bring a change in the country. The faith that only benefits the possessor is not the God kind of Faith. However , let’s go back to our main subject of prayer and leave Faith for another day.
Praying for political leaders is a noble intervention, however what makes it invalid in most cases is when Christians use it as a mantra that has no corresponding action whatsoever.
This is the same disposition that most people today have taken when dealing with leadership inadequacies within the churches they attend, as they have no keen interest in ensuring that their leaders are above reproach. If you cannot take interest in how the church you attend runs, how it is structured, whether your leaders are accountable and whether they live what they preach; then it is evident that you will also not be concerned about matters of national interest.
Congregants today, despite being aware of the lack of integrity, misconduct and abuse of power by their leaders will still remain quiet in the name of “loyalty”. When the leadership is challenged by few individuals within or outside the organization, congregants tend to view this as an attack from the “enemy”, which in most instances is actually not.
It is highly probable that when an African Christian is challenged to take a stand on the wrong-doing of his/her leader/s ,the response will be “there is nothing we can do but pray and support the man or woman of God, after all we are all not perfect”. This sort of response simply confirms the existing culture of silence that exists in most African countries and feeds into the very nature of passivity that has ruined our society today. Somehow it seems that we Africans are brought up to be passive individuals, who easily tolerate what we should not and especially if the wrong done is by a fellow African leader.
Our current situation in most Christians circles sounds familiar to what Paul confronted with the Corinthians, who thought they were wise and spiritual yet were putting up with ungodly leadership whose motive was not to serve them but to exploit, abuse and take away their dignity. The most fascinating thing is that the Corinthians permitted this to happen and embraced this form of leadership, as is the case today (2 Corinthians 11:19 – 11:20 NKJV : For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise! For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face).
Deception thrives on ignorance which no one has control over except the very ignorant individual themselves. Therefore when an individual is deceived, you cannot blame the deceiver entirely; those who are deceived are always found to be in a state that makes them susceptible to the deception. Such is the case with Christians today, some even feel that they are serving God by participating in hiding the issues that are prevalent in their churches. The ungodly leadership in most African churches has been sustained by passive members who sit there quietly and support the movement financially; therefore the blame should not only be on the leaders, but the very congregants themselves.
It is evidently clear that if you cannot stand for the injustice done to you and around you, you are intrinsically unlikely to see the injustice done to others. If you cannot lift a finger to correct and point out the evil in your back yard, you can never have the necessary stamina and conviction to participate in issues that serve humanity.
The state of the church today is not a product of bad leadership only, it is also a by product of passive members who allow evil to be practised right underneath their noses yet do nothing about it. These individuals can’t see the difference between covering their leadership’s weaknesses versus their wicked inclinations.
The Christianity I have come to know is a confrontational one, it does not glory in evil neither does it encourage followers to be fearful and oblivious to issues around them. At one juncture Jesus tells the disciples to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers; if this prayer request was given in our modern times today, most Christians would have excluded seeing themselves as the very laborers that God requires. The disciples prayed but were also actively involved in the harvest themselves as laborers (Luke 10:2 NKJV : Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest).
The inequalities and corrupt leadership that has existed in our society for years, are not just prayer points but also opportunities to align ourselves and be the solution by actively getting involved. I guess it is safer to hide in the name of “prayers” than being actively involved to see the needed change. Those who genuinely pray are not passive because prayer in its purest sense is not passive. If you genuinely pray about something you will be moved to act accordingly and be in alignment with your prayer (James 2:14 – 2:17 NKJV : What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead)
The bible is against the passivity that hides in spirituality. The moral regeneration of our society and the birthing of good leadership that we so desperately need depends on Christians rising and taking up their rightful place. To say you will pray for something that requires you to take action is hypocritical and ungodly (Matthew 5:14 – 5:16 NKJV : You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven)
Perhaps our passivity as Christians speaks to our own backslidden state, maybe we have become passive in our own personal lives. We have become tolerant of our own ungodliness which thwarts our ability to respond to what is genuinely the heartbeat of our Father. God is only seen as a source of material wealth, our faith in Him has become a means to obtain things, His grace has been abused and taken as a source of comfort to remain in our current ungodly state.
This actually reminds me of the parable of the talents where one man hid his talent instead of trading it, so that he can “add value” upon the master’s return. Most of us have done the same, we think God will come and remove corrupt leaders, bring equality, feed the poor, rectify our racial prejudices etc, on our behalf, not realizing that the responsibility to do so is in our hands. My advice is don’t pray if you cannot personally be involved if need be, to act in a manner that can bring the needed change.
Martin Luther King, Jr said ” Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.