One tragedy of the Nigerian church today is that it is quite conceivable that a man of God will preach a heaven-moving sermon on Saturday at the funeral of a saint who died from malaria, and the very next morning, preach an earth-moving Sunday sermon in which he lionizes the crooked politician who stole the money that was meant to supply malaria drugs to hospitals, who had now come to give ‘thanks’ for the bounties of the ‘lord’. It is indeed possible in church today for the man of God to preach both sermons without ever discerning the irony.
Given the rate at which the president is making the rounds of churches seeking photo ops and endorsements as he heads into what everyone can see is a campaign, it is important for us as believers to be cautious in our embrace of the president so as to not allow the name of the Lord be profaned. To Timothy, Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be in a hurry in the laying on of hands [giving the sanction of the church too hastily in reinstating expelled offenders or in ordination in questionable cases], nor share or participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure”. (1 Timothy 5:22 AMP). While the direct message here refers to ordaining people, the underlying principle is that the authority and influence of the church should not be used to endorse questionable characters lest we partake in their sins.
Now are there unanswered questions about the character of our politicians and in particular President Jonathan? The resounding answer is “of course yes”. Just think about the evil dimension that corruption has assumed in the land for instance.
Yes, the bible is very clear that we should pray for our leaders. Apostle Paul again wrote: “The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3 MSG). We must however be wise so that in pretending that they seek our prayers, politicians don’t cunningly use the opportunity to openly fraternize with us and by so doing give the impression that they have received the endorsement of the church and by extension God’s.
As you would know sir, a man of a God may sometimes tarry too long fraternizing with a particular civic leader when God has indeed moved on. As we have it written in scripture, “God addressed Samuel: “So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.” (1 Samuel 16:1 MSG).
Now let me state clearly that God has not told me that he has rejected Jonathan, but let me suggest that if God has also not expressly told you that he is with him, it is perhaps best to stay with the time tested doctrine of scripture which warns us to steer clear of questionable characters lest we partake of their sin.
Please bear in mind that for the cynical, you might actually seem to be in cahoots with the thieving politicians. This is so because in Nigeria today, the relevance of several ministries seems to depend almost entirely on the failure of civil authorities in their constitutional responsibilities. Indeed the principal subject of our prayers as a body is concerned with matters that proper governments take care of as a matter of routine for citizens. These matters of physical existence are indeed not the primary reason for our belief in Christ. As it is written, “If we who are [abiding] in Christ have hope only in this life and that is all, then we are of all people most miserable and to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 AMP)
To be honest, what worries me more is the possibility that this fraternizing springs from a mutual need: that you crave the photo op and endorsement of the politician just as much as he seeks yours. I worry that you might somehow believe that being seen so close to someone as prominent as the president gives a divine stamp of approval to your ministry and opens the doors to the corridors of power and attracts a large following. I sincerely hope and pray that the rot is not this deep for “if gold rusts so, what will iron do?”
Let us also give some thought to our practice of “giving honour to whom honour is due”. Let us test the spirit behind this practice which essentially means throwing ourselves and God at the feet of the ‘big man’ to trample underfoot. To share a personal experience, I was in a church one day when a certain ‘big man’ declared his intention to give the church a gift and announced publicly that the pastor should see him in his office during the week. I leave you to ponder on that.
Indeed the bible admonishes us to give honour to whom honour is due but it also says; “Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—”Christian”—used in your baptisms?” (James 2:5-7 MSG)
The previous verses provide us context as quoted here: “MY BRETHREN, pay no servile regard to people [show no prejudice, no partiality]. Do not [attempt to] hold and practice the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Lord] of glory [together with snobbery]! For if a person comes into your congregation whose hands are adorned with gold rings and who is wearing splendid apparel, and also a poor [man] in shabby clothes comes in, And you pay special attention to the one who wears the splendid clothes and say to him, Sit here in this preferable seat! while you tell the poor [man], Stand there! or, Sit there on the floor at my feet! Are you not discriminating among your own and becoming critics and judges with wrong motives?” (James 2:1-4 AMP)
The questions that James asked then seem to me of even greater relevance today: “…Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—”Christian”—used in your baptisms?” (James 2:7 MSG).
Think about it, isn’t it our politicians who steal our money and then get a perpetual injunction to prevent the law from asking them any questions?
Please sirs, the office you occupy and the influence you wield are divine privileges. Please sirs, “Do not give that which is holy (the sacred thing) to the dogs, and do not throw your pearls before hogs, lest they trample upon them with their feet and turn and tear you in pieces”. (Matthew 7:6 AMP)