“… Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”
It is very important in today’s world that we, as Christians, become more active in our societies. The decay we see in the church today is largely because of our defensive stance. “Don’t dabble into the things of the world,” we seem to say to ourselves, but our children get their education in the world. We mustn’t live on the defensive, but fight on the offensive by being active in making sure that the society is free from evil. When it comes to defending our young from evil and decay, offence is the best form of defence. We must seek a reform at every point the society declines from the moral path. We must strive that the will of God be done in earth as it is in heaven.
Before I go on, it is important for us to note that I use the word activist or activism not because activists are examples for us to follow, but to express the point that our involvement in the society to purge it from evil must be an earnest and enthusiastic endeavour. We must carry it out with vigour, consistency, organisation, and tact. The activists of the world are usually heady, contentious, vain, advocating a cause without proper basis or convictions, or hiding behind a good cause to pursue a selfish end, but we must follow the example of Jesus which I seek to point to us here. Herein is Christianity, to follow the example of Jesus.
“Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
In the message of the mother of king Lemuel which she gave to him in Proverbs 31, we receive a good instruction on how to go about activism. She says that we ought to open our mouth for the dumb. This statement shows that we ought to cast away the sloth or inertia that so often hinders us from embarking on such an endeavour. It is one thing to say to someone to speak, but when the instruction is that he or she should open his mouth, it is an emphasis that is often used when one is irritated by the silence of someone keeping quiet when he or she ought to speak. It says we should speak for the dumb in the cause of those who are appointed to destruction.
Next it says we should judge righteously. Just as learned people are fit to be judges so also only people with knowledge can judge righteously. People who are learned in the ways of Christ who is called the Sun of righteousness. So as many as seek to be activists for a just cause must work to consistently improve their knowledge in the ways of righteousness. This must be done first in diligent study of God’s word and in earnest prayer to him. We must also study widely on subjects of right reasoning, judgment, history, etc.
Now one may think that these words apply to kings only and not to us. It is true that it applies to kings, but we are all kings in our states. We are all decision makers and have or can have influence in certain spheres of life. We are kings and princes in such spheres as we have influence. Though the things which the mother of Lemuel wrote to her son, a king, would have been possible for him to do in his kingdom, yet he can’t do those things in another kingdom, though he is indeed a king. So even kings have limitations just as we too have limitations of ours. But wherever we have influence, let’s make sure we use our influence actively for that which is good.
Now back to opening our mouth for the dumb. There are many things that could make people to be dumb in cases of which they could have defended themselves. It could be that they don’t have influence like you do or they don’t have the knowledge by which they could defend themselves. Mordecai and all the Jews with him were dumb, not because they were dumb in the literal sense and couldn’t speak, but because of their position in the society they couldn’t speak to the king. But Esther, being the queen, could speak to the king, though in her particular case she did it at the risk of her life. So we must, like Esther, use our positions at everytime to defend the weak and the dumb.
“And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.”
(1 Kings 18:30)
I had written in my book, “THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN HOME,” on the need to actively ensure that the society is a healthy one that can enable us easily bring up our children in the fear of God. Given that the society is prone to decline from the good path, we must alway seek a societal reform at every point we notice a moral decline. Such reforms can only be achieved by active endeavours.
[Note: The full version of my book mentioned is free and can be downloaded and shared freely. Please download yours HERE.]
I once listened to the learned William Barr, the Attorney General of the United States, give a speech in Notredam on religious freedom. He was a super brilliant man and I drank the words of his speech down like water for it was sweet to my taste. He said many things about the trend of human life. He talked about how Christians were persecuted by the Roman emperors, how the roman catholic church resorted to persecuting those who opposed them, and how there is a form of persecution of people on account of their religious beliefs today. The whole of his speech was insightful, but one key thing I wish to point out from his speech is an illustration of a pendulum. He said when a pendulum by a natural cause swings one way it naturally swings back the other way. He said that the society is just like that. When we go out of the way in one direction by what is the natural tendency of man, we naturally return back from that way. So when there is a moral decline which occurs by natural causes for example, we shall overtime come back to a state of morality. He said societies often have a self correcting mechanism. He said, however, that the moral decline we see in today’s world is not decay and is not a natural one that we can expect the self correcting mechanism to work. The moral decline we see is a well orchestrated work of men. For this reason, you and I can’t just sit there and expect that things would correct itself. We must rise up and be active in seeking a societal reform.
First we must know the form before we can recognise the deform, and recognising the deformity we are to seek a reform at every point we notice a deform. What is the form? The form is the way God ordained things to be. A deform is therefore that which is out of the way God ordained it to be. A man that must truly seek a reform is therefore that man that is well acquainted with the will of the Lord his God. Without this knowledge he is absolutely unfit to seek a reform. Let him who seeks a reform first of all go to the written word of God and to the place of prayer to enquire what the form really is, and only after knowing it can he indeed seek a reform.
In the Lord’s prayer, we read the following words, “… Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). This is a prayer we ought to pray earnestly and pursue it with the good work of pursuing societal reforms. But how shall he who knows not the will of God pray for it in the very deed? If he prays for it, how shall he know when the will of God is being done in the earth in answers to his prayer? So knowing his good and perfect will is essential to our being able to work towards his will being done in the earth.
When Elijah encountered the prophet of Baal, we read that he “… said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down.” (1 Kings 18:30). He had a proper knowledge about how the altar ought to be, else he wouldn’t have known first of all that the altar needed a repair. Also, if perchance he guessed that it needed repairs, he wouldn’t have known how to repair it. But being a man close to God he was able to repair the altar adequately and God’s presence came down in the form of a consuming fire.
King Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, brought about a major deform in the kingdom of Israel. He turned people from worshiping the living God to the worship of the image of calves. Not that he told them to leave the worship of the living God, but he told them that the image of his calf represented that living God. This he did thinking it will secure his kingdom. King Ahab however turned the heart of Israel to forsake the living God completely to worship Baal. He was influenced by his wife Jezebel. But the man Jehu was appointed to execute judgment on the house of Ahab. He executed the judgment appointed to the house of Ahab with the zeal and fervour that is characteristic of a reformer. On his way to execute vengeance on the house of Ahab, he said to a person he came by, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD…” (2 Kings 10:16). The reform Jehu sought was complete. It is written, “Thus Jehu destroyed Baal out of Israel.” (2 Kings 10:28). Even God commended Jehu because the vengeance was well carried out, for it is written, “And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” (2 Kings 10:30). But the reform Jehu accomplished was yet far from true reform. It is written, “Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.” (2 Kings 10:29). So what he really did was revert to an earlier error and not to return to the right way. His reform was from one deform to another deform. And that, my brothers and sisters, is pathetic.
So, if we fail to first be acquainted with the form by means of studying God’s word and fervent prayer, we shall not cease to move from one deform to another deform continually.
The Mission Of Christian Activism
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”
Charity begins at home. I don’t mean the family here, I mean at home in our members. We must fight actively against the evils in our own selves. They who know the form are they who know God. And they who know God must first of all seek their own reform to be fully conformed to the will of God. Each person who knows the will of God must therefore start his reformation at home, I mean his very heart. So the fundamental mission of every reformer is that he himself has a reformed heart. When we have done this, only then can we attempt to fight in any other sphere with a hope of achieving something tangible.
As a people who know the will of God, they must seek a reform in their own midst. Therefore after seeking a reform in the very heart, we must seek a reform in the church. It is here that true societal reform can indeed start. If the church, and the individuals in her, be not reformed, seeking it at a wider scale would prove most futile. The Lord said to the Pharisees, “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” (Matthew 23:26). So we must clean the inside of the church first and the outside, being the society, would be clean also. If we seek a reform as the people of God without first being reformed we shall only waste our time. But if we be first reformed personally and collectively and actively try to promote reforms within ourselves, we shall find the society around us get reformed. It shall be a natural result that shall occur with little of our effort. People like Martin Luther sought for reform in the church and Christians alone, but ended up reforming the whole continent of Europe. It is as natural as that.
We must also war against spiritual wickedness in the society. Though we may still see this as a church reformation, but this can only be pursued at a societal level because the church is so much divided. You can’t really seek or achieve a reform in a church that you don’t actively worship in. Spiritual wickedness is that wickedness in which a person or group of persons subject others to their own will in the name of God. It is written, “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless.” (Isaiah 10:1 – 2). These evils we find in much of them who occupy clerical positions in today’s church. We must strive to maintain a sane spiritual atmosphere that puts God as the centre of focus, and the truth our bond. It takes great boldness to contend for the poor and ignorant in trying to salvage them from the oppression of spiritual tyrants. But as Christians, we must fight for the helpless who can’t save themselves from spiritual wickedness.
Let’s now go to pursuing a reform in our society. For if reformation is to be complete, though it can come about naturally, yet we must endeavour to pursue it with set goals to make it more complete. But this must not be a distraction from the principal responsibility of seeking reforms in ourselves and the Christian church.
I think the first thing we ought to strive for is morality. I say morality because not all men can be saved but most men can be made moral. We must strive to maintain morality in the conversation of people, in the media, educational institutions, and government. This is how we can truly live in peace. For it is written, “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:18). Without righteousness there can be no peace. Peace follows righteousness. And we know it is God’s will that we live a quiet and peaceable life for it is written, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” (1 Timothy 2:1 – 2). In that it is written that we should pray for such things, we must also actively work to ensure that the society is this way, for prayer without faith is futile and faith without works is dead. Also, it is in a moral society than we can effectively raise up children in the fear and love of God. So the importance of having a moral society can’t be over emphasised.
We must strive in making sure that the society maintains right values. Spirituality according to the truth must be given high priority. Hard work, honesty, fear of God, diligence, and study are the foundations we must lay for the society. In our schools, fear of God and honour of his name should be instilled in students. In our offices and businesses, same should be emphasised and good business ethics and best practices must be promoted.
In every sphere, chastity and godliness must be promoted. In the media, there should be in every publication an undertone of the fear of God and reverence for his holy name. Whether we talk on business, politics, music, sports, etc. There should be this silent yet audible voice saying, “Glory to God in the highest…”
As Christian activists we must not allow ourselves to dwell in the illusion of religious parity. We know that Jesus is the truth and that it is in the best interest of the society to believe in him, hope on him, and live by his doctrine. For this reason, our endeavour should tend to the exclusivity of the Christian faith and values. Not that we impose it on others, but we go about this endeavour with the absolute consciousness of this. We must not carry this out in a way that puts the Christian faith in the midst of other religious claims, nor should we do it in a way that places the One, True, and Living God in a pantheon amidst a host of idols. No matter what we do, at least we mustn’t advocate religious parity in any way, whether or not we think it will further our cause, for we are not called to raise our heads high in the midst of a host of other religious claims, rather our calling is in this, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
Next is to pursue a public good. This is putting the interest of the general public ahead of ours. It doesn’t mean that we hate ourselves, but because we are part of the publics, we are just being good to ourselves the best way possible if we put the interest of general public ahead of ourselves.
In the pursuit of the public good we must prioritise the protection and wellbeing of the poor. It is written, “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3 – 4). History has taught us that it is very easy for people who claim to seek after justice to be more active when it is in the defence of the rich and powerful. But let the same evil be done to a poor and weak person, nothing will be done this time. The reason for this is because the heart of man is evil that, in its craftiness, the owner of the heart can’t even see through its motive to understand the selfishness and hypocrisy in seeking justice in the society.
Another thing is that people, in the name of fighting for the rights of the poor, gain to themselves so much wealth in this very same endeavour. So activism and foundations for the less privilege is a great business nowadays. Let that not be our example. We must use what is ours to help the poor and needy without seeking our own gain. Our service to God in these things must cost us something rather than profit us something. We should go about our business to earn a good living but in our service to God and to humanity we must be willing to spend and be spent.
The Biblical call to Christian activism is founded in the second commandment which is equal to the most important commandment of loving God with all the heart, soul, and might. This commandment is that we ought to love our neighbour as ourselves. This is why Jesus said, “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12). Not some, not most, but all things.
What we should have men do to us does not mean what we desire them to do to us in our present state, but we must put ourselves in the shoes of the suffering and oppressed and think about what we would desire the powerful and able should do to us. That is what should determine what we do unto others. That we have no need of help now does not mean that we shouldn’t help those in need of help. If we were in their shoes and we would desire that somebody comes to our rescue, we should also go to the rescue of the suffering party. Do not also assumingly ascribe to them a form of maturity that is only ideal. Don’t assume saying to yourself, “well, he can bare the pain of what he is suffering.” We should seek to ease the load, kill the pain, and lose the bondage of the suffering.
By the saying of Jesus in Matthew 7:12 we know that it is natural for a righteous man to be an activist. For to love our neighbour as ourselves means that we should actively seek their good, comfort, progress, and prosperity as we seek ours. The righteous men in the Bible were this way. The righteous man, Job, could say, “Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.” (Job 29:12). Read down to verse 17 and see all that Job did. While Job was yet rich and powerful he did all these for the helpless who couldn’t repay him. He also helped the helpless despite being in his safe haven of wealth, he didn’t do them in his fear and insecurity. He never thought that these poor ones may come to his rescue someday. When he was stricken, they indeed did not help neither did he look to them for help for his motives had been pure all the while.
We must focus on the wellbeing of the poor, not to make them perpetually dependent, but to help them out of that state of poverty and dependency. No matter how people try to deny it, the gospel of Jesus tended more towards the poor. It does not promote poverty but is more to the benefit of the poor than the rich. He also did not die for the interest of angels, or heavenly beings, rather he died for the interest of creatures as poor and wretched as the worms that we are. That is selflessness. And that is the quality that must be obvious in our strife for reforms.
Another reason why our focus must be on the poor is because they can’t reward us. In his teachings Jesus taught us to invite the poor and maim to our feasts because they can’t reward us in return (Luke 14:13). So when we do our good works, we should focus more on the poor who can’t reward us. Then shall our heavenly father bless us in manifold ways including giving us a good success in this very earnest advocacy of Christian activism.
Good governance is also a great thing to pursue. There can’t be a public good without good governance. We can’t live peaceable lives without good governance. So it is imperative that we should play our part in ensuring good governance. We should pursue good governance by being a part of the system, advocating good governance, and supporting those who do well. We should also be active in putting forward solutions to the problems of the society. This does not mean we should become critical of the government when they don’t do well. We shall talk more about this in part two of this article.
We should play our part in helping to determine what is fair and ethical in every sector. Sometimes, to achieve these things it may require that we form groups and unions to ensure best and ethical practices. We should instil loyalty, hard work, sincerity, and the fear of God in people. There is no way people could be ethical without these qualities. It is lazy people that cheat. It is people that don’t fear God that are not contented with what they have. If we don’t have the fear of God, even the groups and union that are made with the purpose of ensuing good ethics and fairness in different sectors would end up being unions and groups of corporate criminality and dubiousness.
We could go on and on, but the bottom line is that we seek the best of the public and to ensure that we do our part in instilling the fear of God and good virtue in every citizen.
Jesus Our Perfect Example
“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”
(Luke 13:1 – 3)
To cap this all up, I’ll like to point us to Jesus. In all things he is our perfect example. We read in Luke 13:1-3, he was informed of the grievous injustice and cruelty with which Pilate had acted when he mingled the blood of people offering sacrifices to God with the blood of the sacrifice. Jesus did not start a protest or anything of that sort to fight in any way with the constituted authority. Rather he used the occasion to preach repentance and warn of the judgment of God if they fail to repent.
We too must act in this way. We must never use the fact that we are striving for the good of the ignorant and weak as a cloak for fighting against a constituted authority. At the same time we mustn’t be timid against vices in the society, for often time, they who are in authority need people to stand for the truth and push for it to be able to act rightly. Let us be like our Lord in all things. Let us be gentle yet bold.
We shall talk more on this example and other examples given us in scriptures as well as history in the next part.
Prayer: Dear Father and Lord, we are well aware that the time for a far reaching societal reform is overdue. Grant us the will, the zeal, the wisdom, and the love to pursue a reform according to your holy will. This we ask in the dear name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.