ACTIVISM, SOCIETAL REFORMS, AND CHRISTIANITY (Part 2)

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works.”
(Proverbs 24:11 – 12)

In the first article on this topic, I spoke about activism, societal reforms, and how these things must begin at the church and with Christian people first striving for personal reforms. We talked about the need to pursue good governance and focus on the well being of the poor. Not just to cater for their needs as poor but to bring them out of poverty. We know full well that the whole Bible emphasise on catering for the need of the poor, both by doctrine and by the examples of the lives of the holy men of the Bible, including Jesus (John 13:29, Galatians 2:9 – 2:10). This interest in the well being of the poor must be seen in our quest for societal reforms.

In this second part we shall be talking about how to go about seeking a societal reform. The things written must be understood in the light of the first part and the points I make here may not be properly or rightly understood except it be compared with the contents of the first part.

It is worthy of note here that a total personal reform may not be achievable while in the flesh, for this reason, while we must earnestly and sincerely pursue total personal reforms, we mustn’t wait for perfection before pursuing reforms in the church and nation. Perfection shall be ours only in heaven, but while we, with resolve, press forward for personal reforms, we must at the same time press for other reforms.

It is my belief that the time to look on the issues of societal reforms and activism from a Christian perspective is overdue for two reasons. The first is that the time is overripe for a total societal reforms in most parts of the world. The second is that the people who engage in activism do it in the way of the Devil and not in a Christian way. We shall first look at the evilness of the way of the Devil before looking at the Christian way.

The Evilness Of Revolution And Radicalism

“They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.”
(Job 24:13)

Before we go on, we must be wary of going the path of revolution. It is worthy of note that the word revolution has no good synonyms. The synonyms are ugly words like, rebellion, mutiny, etc. Yet people try to make revolution to be a good word and that great good can be achieved by it. Some even erroneously try to make Jesus out to be a revolutionary. But let’s be clear that revolution is not the way of God but the way of the Devil. We shall understand why below.

Radicalism on the other hand is a breaking away from the norm. Radicalism and revolution complement each other. And so when we hear of people being called radicals, they are people who believe in continuous departure from the norm. The word norm is considered repulsive to them. They seek change just for the love of change and not for expediency. But here is what the Bible tells us about radicals, “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change.” (Proverbs 24:21). Progress is made with consistency in the right path. In that one direction and a continuous walk in it. But radicals think progress is made by continually changing both path and direction.

image from: americanrhetoric.com

I listened to a speech given by Dr. Benjamin Carson in which he spoke about Hilary Clinton at the time she was contesting for presidency. He made some revealing statements about that woman. He said that her mentor was Saul Alinski, she admired him so much and her senior thesis was about Saul Alinski. And this Saul Alinski wrote a book titled, “Rules For Radicals.” And this book he dedicated to Lucifer (which is taken to mean the Devil) as the first radical to win himself a kingdom through rebellion. Here is the full text of his dedication page.

“Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins— or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom —Lucifer.”

That is what radicalism is about, and revolution is also about rebellion. We can see how that revolution and radicalism are the ways of the Devil and the sons and daughters of hell. For this reason I get concerned to hear some Christians say they are radicals for Jesus. The children of God don’t choose the path of revolution and rebellion, neither do they shift from norms and traditions. It is written of our Lord, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8). He doesn’t change. It is also written, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6). How then shall they who follow him call themselves radicals? Saying one is a radical Christian is making a statement that is a diametrical contradiction of itself.

To prove indeed that revolution and radicalism are not the ways of God, let’s go through the Bible and see the methods of God’s workings. Let’s start with Abraham and Sarah. In my book, when talking about the role of husbands and wives, I pointed out that even though Sarah, in wishing to send Hagar and her son away, was right and Abraham, willing to retain her and her son, was wrong, God did not tell Sarah to act against the will of Abraham just because she was right and he was wrong. Rather God approached Abraham to seek his consent to her demand saying to him, “Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.” (Genesis 21:12). For God, though he were the Almighty, the consent of Abraham was very important and necessary to do his will. This was because Sarah was under the authority of Abraham. He would not by any means move her to rebel on account of her being right and his being wrong.

Let’s proceed to the Jews in Egypt. Though they were oppressed by the Egyptians and used as slaves, God never told them to revolt. He rather called Moses from the wilderness saying to him to say unto Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” (Exodus 5:1). That was not revolution. This was God asking Pharaoh for his consent to let his people go. And it was not without the consent of Pharaoh that he led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Though God afflicted the whole of Egypt to get that consent, yet it was not without Pharaoh’s consent. To God, the consent of Pharaoh was important for bringing them out of Egypt.

Let’s now talk of the Jews in Babylon and Persia. God did not bring out his people from Babylon by means of revolution. Rather he ordained that a king would rise up who shall give his consent to the release of his people from bondage. It is written, probably some centuries before his birth, concerning Cyrus, “Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself… That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” (Isaiah 44:24, 28). When the fullness of time was come, when this Cyrus was born and reigned as king, he gave a decree that all the Jews that wish to return to Jerusalem should return. All these can be read in the first chapter of the book of Ezra. The Jews got their freedom from those kingdoms not by revolution but by the consent of this great Cyrus.

Back to the story of Jesus and Pilate which we talked about in the first part of this article. It is written, “There were present at that season some that told him [Christ] of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” (Luke 13:1). When you look at this it is easy to see the gruesome wickedness of this. This was not only a sin against men and shedding of blood, but it is also a sin of disregard to the God whom these people made their sacrifices to. I don’t think that there are many wicked acts greater than this in all of scriptures. But despite this complete disregard for his Father, what was Jesus’ response? Rebellion? Civil disobedience? Mutiny? Anarchy? Protests? No, rather he answered 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 13:2 – 3). Instead of starting a protest or unrest, which the Romans do fear a lot, he took the path of turning their eyes from this temporal life to the eternal by calling them to repentance. Jesus had more than enough reasons to revolt, but he didn’t. Some people today are willing to revolt over relatively petty things such as poor economy, poor roads, theft, and what have you. But that was not the way of the Lord Jesus.

Let us proceed to the early church and Herod. When Herod arrested Peter and James, the church did not revolt calling it an unfair arrest. He beheaded James, the church did not revolt accusing Herod as an abuser of power and a murderer. What did the church do? They prayed. And God heard them, released Peter and killed Herod. All these without revolution. I get deeply saddened when I see some church leaders calling their leaders names because of some perceived wrong. That was not the way of the Lord Jesus.

When Saul persecuted the church and did a lot of harm to the church. We don’t have any account of the church resisting him. But when it was the right time he got converted (without anyone preaching to him) to the same faith he tried to destroy. Without revolution, rebellion, or resistance.

How about the church and Rome? All through the times Christians suffered under the wicked Roman emperors, the Christians did not revolt. When the time was right, God turned the heart of Constantine the Great and he became a Christian. Not only was he the emperor of the realm, he also played his role diligently as a brother and sought to unify and edify the Christian church. This same Constantine moved his co-emperors, before he became sole emperor, to grant Christians freedom in the whole realm. So they got full freedom by the full consent of these emperors and not by revolting against them.

We could go on and on listing instances, but let’s be clear (learning from these few examples) that the purposes of God are never achieved by revolution. It is the purposes of the Devil that can be achieved by means of revolution. It behoves the children of God not to seek to do anything using the approach of the Devil. When the children of the Devil seek to achieve the purposes of their father in his rebellious ways, let the children of God not partake in it but stand aloof. I believe, when two devils are fighting, it takes another devil to take sides.

I know there are instances, especially in the book of Judges that may have some resemblance to revolution, but these were not revolutions as much as they were wars. We may also point to the rebellion of Israel against the house of David as coming from God, but this was a punishment against the house of David and not a course of action God encourages his children to follow. He made Absalom rebel against David as a punishment against David too, but this does not make it a pattern for us to follow. God does not lead his own children in these ways of rebellion, though he may use rebellion as a scourge on the backs of those he punishes.

Having concluded this, we shall now proceed to look at activism and societal reforms through the light of Christianity. We shall now see how the purposes of God can be achieved by us.

The Effectiveness Of Pleading

“And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.”
(2 Kings 1:13)

Now, if revolution is not the right method of seeking a change, if it takes the children of the Devil to revolt and delight in breaking away from norms, then what is the right way of seeking a reform? I believe the right method can be found in these words, “… plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9). The key word I wish to point out there is “plead.”

Image gotten from: atlanticcouncil.org

The path to true and successful reform is the path of pleading and reasoning together. This we call dialogue. Now pleading is humble supplication. When a lawyer pleads the cause of a person in the court of law, he doesn’t do so arrogantly. You’d always hear him refer to the judge as “my lord.” So this is how to seek a change. Through pleading and supplication to those in authority and trying to reason with them. Seeking their consent to make the needed change. Not by resisting them or engaging in rebellion. If they appear to be wicked, we must not use that as a pretext to use the Devil’s method in achieving a societal change.

This is the wisdom that comes from above. It is written, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:17 – 18). This is the wisdom of God. Where in all these things can you sight strong will or revolution? Therefore, these characteristics of heavenly wisdom must be what characterises our every endeavour to seek a societal reform.

To further prove that the way of pleading and supplication is the way God approves of, we read about Ahazia, the son of Ahab. He fell seek and wished to know if he’d recover. He sent his servants to go inquire from Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron. Elijah met them in the way and sent them back to the king with a reprimand for consulting Baal-zebub instead of the living God and told them to tell him that he will not recover and that he shall surely die. This angered Ahazia and he sent his soldiers to arrest Elijah. The first two captains of the soldiers came rudely to Elijah commanding him to follow them, but Elijah commanded fire to destroy them and their soldiers. But the third came and fell on his knees and pleaded with Elijah for his life and the life of those who followed him. Because he pleaded, the angel of the Lord had to intervene on behalf of this captain. It is written, “And the angel of the LORD said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.” (2 Kings 1:15). When the captain humbled himself and pleaded, even the angel of the Lord had to say to Elijah to go with them. If God had to intervene to save the life of this penitent and humble captain, it reveals to us that even God is with the humble who choose the path of pleading and supplication rather than haughty confrontation and resistance. For this reason, if in the course of your activism you want to be backed with the power of God to grant you good success, choose the path of humble plea.

We ought to know that pleading is not compatible with the foolish arrogance of men. The things that appeal to the natural man are the pride of life, the lust of the eye, and the lust of the flesh. The humble and meek path is not a desirable one for the natural man. Yet humility and meekness are what is necessary for effective Christian activism. Pleading is often associated with weakness. But though it be indeed seemingly so, it is very powerful and effective when it comes to convincing those who are in power. And the humble intreaties that characterises the word “plead” must be used if any endeavour towards achieving a reform is to yield good fruits.

We ought to know that pleading has to do with making the persons we plead with see the reason for doing something. We must therefore be reasonable people and be apt in defending the rationality of the right reforms we pursue. This requires much study and hard work. It is not pouring out words in large quantity, but it is being able to persuade men that matters. I therefore recommend that as many as wish to seek a reform pray and study God’s word and useful books. Books that handle the issues of what constitutes the society, the moral fabric of the society and how it dictates the health of the society, what constitutes the rights of people, the authority of the government, its legitimacy and limits, etc. Richard Baxter wrote a number of books on such topics. There are a host of other writers who handled such matters. Reading their writings would widen our scope of reasoning and our ability to present our argument in a convincing and easily comprehensible and agreeable manner. Knowledge in these things would also enable us squash all the crappy reasoning by which men do wicked things and make wicked and foolish laws. It would be useful for Christians to acquaint themselves with writings such as this, but as Christians we must weigh each argument presented on the scale of the Bible. These things may sound like things that should be studied by only people in the legal field, but he that wishes to plead for reforms must acquaint himself on these things too.

Execution Pattern Of Christian Activism

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
(James 3:17 – 18)

As said before, our pattern should not be a contentious endeavour born out of sheer headiness and vanity. It must be because we feel the pain of the suffering and see the decadence in the society. We must do it in the wisdom that is from above. We read that such wisdom is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. That therefore is all that should characterise our endeavours in seeking a reform, indeed in everything else we do. To do otherwise is to follow a devilish path.

We need to teach what is right. This has to do with informing and enlightening people on the right things to do. Teaching is at the core of our Christian calling and so must it be used in this too. It is written, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations… Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19 – 20). So we are to teach. This re-presents us with the need to acquire extensive knowledge, because (as I often say), “total disaster is when ignorance tries to teach.” So we must teach those things that are right and useful according to the commands of Christ. By our teachings we must instil piety and the fear of God in the lives of men.

I believe that the most effective way to do anything is to do it alone as much as possible. Because people have varying passions, and different levels of zeal. You mustn’t be drawn back by others who are slack. However, there is a need to sometimes form groups and come behind a common good purpose. Such groups would have far more force in effecting change than individuals. They should be able to meet decision makers to dialogue on things that make for a healthy society (morality of programs aired on radio and the television for example). We need to be active in these things. Set time targets, review the outcome and effectiveness of our past activities geared at making a reforms. And plan future actions.

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. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” (1 Timothy 2:1 – 3). We should go about our activism by prayer and praying for those in authority. It is sad that many people are so good at criticising their leaders and don’t pray for them. This is not what we are told in the Bible. We are to pray for them. When we’ve prayed, we must back up our prayer which we’ve prayed in faith with the good works of Christian activism, lest the faith by which we pray be a dead one (James 2:26).

We should be careful to avoid the pitfall many fall into when they think they are working according to the command given us in 1 Timothy 2:1 – 3. They congratulate those in authority for everything they do, whether bad or good. They pray for them to prosper in just anything they do. If he kills Christians like the Roman emperors, they pray for his success and congratulate him. That is not what we’re talking about. When God spoke to Habakuk about how he’s going to bring a king from afar to lead his people away captive. Did he rejoice and pray that God should do it? He prayed against it with bitterness of heart. When they were finally captives in the land of Babylon, did the righteous start congratulating the Babylonians for leading them captives? No, rather in the strange land, the psalmist wrote in bitterness of heart, “O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” (Psalm 137:8 – 9). Of course, we needn’t pray such prayers for our adversaries, but far be it from us to congratulate and pray for the prosperity of people who persecute the brotherhood of Christ as they do so.

The command in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 gives us the object of our prayer in these words, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” So our prayer for them should be according to how we shall lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good in the sight of God. But in cases where they don’t do this and work against our peaceable lives, godliness and honesty, our prayer should be for their repentance and their coming to the knowledge of the truth, not that they should prosper in inflicting pain on the brotherhood of Christ, not to mention congratulating them. And where they don’t repent, we should hand them over to God. If he shall deal with them like Herod, so be it. If he shall let them to continue prevailing in their evil schemes. So be it. Let God choose what is best according to his supreme and matchless wisdom. When the leaders of the nation of Israel persecuted the disciples of Christ, they didn’t pray that God should kill them neither did they send congratulatory messages to them. All they said to God about them was, “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings…” (Acts 4:29). The rest of their prayers were for strength to do God’s will in the face of persecution. This they did because they trusted God’s judgment in handling matters. People who like to pray that God should kill, maim, and destroy their enemies often don’t trust God’s judgment so wish to tell him what to do.

We should go about seeking reforms with obedience to the law. But we must be actively involved in boldly influencing those in power to act right by earnest entreaties, suggestions, reasonings, and appeals. It should be gentle but forceful enough to effect change.

We should encourage Christians to be actively involved in politics, parliamentary and legislative arms of government, other leadership positions, military, police, media, business, financial institutions, etc. This should be done not in pursuit of a vain ambition but knowing that it is in the best interest of the society that God fearing people should hold such positions. For this reason, we put ourselves on the line. And when these positions are attained, we must not forget the purpose for which we strived to get there, but keep pressing in every sphere that the name of God be honoured, and that rights of every person is maintained. And that people are able to live peaceable lives in all godliness.

God Is Watching

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works.”
(Proverbs 24:11 – 12)

In all this endeavour let us be conscious of the fact that God is watching. Let us not therefore keep silent when we should be speaking. Let us not speak little or just anything just to at least say we have spoken but it didn’t work. We must speak up. We must act.

In the verses above in Proverbs 24, we read that God who ponders the heart considers this thing. When it says he considers the heart it means he will not only weigh our actions, but the very motives of our hearts. Whether or not we did them out of a right motive and whether or not we did them with nonchalance and laziness. He’s watching, he knows, and we have him to answer to in the end.

Here’s a story I heard from Dr. Ben Carson.

There was this young man who loved his mom so much that he loves to buy her exotic gifts every time he had the opportunity to. One day he ran out of ideas of what to buy for his mom for mother’s day. So he came across these really amazing birds that can dance, talk, and sing. So he bought three of them for $5,000 a piece and sent them to his mom. When mothers day finally came he was so excited and couldn’t wait to hear what his mom had to say about the gift, so he called her.

Man: Hello mom, what do you think about those birds?
Mom: They was good. [She had eaten them]
Man: No! No! No! Please don’t tell me you ate those birds. They cost $5,000 a piece. They could sing, they could dance, they could TALK!!
Mom: Well, they should have said something [i.e. while she killed them to eat].

According to Dr. Ben Carson, that’s what happens when we don’t speak up for what we believe. If you know the truth, speak up for the truth. They say silence is the best answer for a fool, but in critical circumstances when people need to speak up, silence is the best answer of a fool. Let’s be heralds of truth and healthy reforms.

Conclusion

“Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
(Isaiah 1:17)

So finally, let us do well. Let us serve God with a sincere heart. As we pray, “they will be done in earth as in heaven,” let us also back up that prayer with the good work of faith by actively pursuing a societal reform at every point we see a deform. It is not an easy task, but it is one we mustn’t fail to embark on.

I leave us with these words of George Washington (POTUS 1), “If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new exertions, and proportion our efforts to the exigency of the times.”

May God grant us the will, wisdom, tact, faith, and strength, to pursue his will on earth and grant us good success. Amen and amen.

Prayer: Dear Father and Lord, we are well aware that the time for a far reaching societal reform is overdue. Keep us from following the Devil’s path, but give us the grace, wisdom and faith to follow the godly, meek and humble path. This we ask in the dear name of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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