I’m not one of those Christians who like to sit on their hands while the world goes to hell in a handbasket. The weeks in October 2020 were especially some of my most questionable periods as a Christian. At the beginning of a protest, I always ask myself if I should be part of this protest or not.
It will look like a dumb question to ask but you have to understand that there are a lot of grey areas in the scripture as relating society, particularly the New Testament, where we still do not have a clear direction on what to do. At least the examples are not explicit. Not because there is no guidance but because when you read the bible, the way it is written, it is focused on historical precedents as relates to the ministry of Christ and the gospel.
In our world today, a lot of Christians are comfortable doing nothing or even doing the most to avoid the discussion or stay neutral. This is when the world around them and the society they live in are undergoing an enormous change. This becomes even more pronounced when the protest involves a face-off with the government in an antagonistic way.
Things like civil disobedience, peaceful protests, strikes, and the millions of things that we’ve always used to hold our government in Nigeria to reckon or accountability have always been questioned by the Christian world or should I say, the Pentecostal Assembly.
The primary reason; Paul the apostle in his writing to the Roman church asked them to obey civil authorities. However, it is instrumental to note that when civil authorities give orders and laws that contradicted the scriptural stand on what the Lord Jesus Christ had commanded them, they flouted those laws and rightly so.
When we look at Christianity today especially some arms of the Pentecostal Church there is this prevailing culture of avoidance as regards social issues. It makes them look like they are not part of society. There are these constant and trending Christian narratives and advice that period of great social upheaval should be avoided.
The warped thinking is that those in the world should be allowed to decide their systems and prevailing conditions. The problem is that whichever way this turns out; we are better or adversely affected. While it is true that we will suffer persecution as Christian, people believe that asking for a better run society is ‘trying to lessen our burden’ in a way Jesus wouldn’t approve of, and I strongly disagree.
During my growth, as a Christian, a still ongoing process, I have found this grossly upsetting because it makes no sense to me how we can sit down and watch our society degenerate. When we sit and do absolutely nothing about it all because we have a home in heaven, one question keeps coming to mind. If we have a home in heaven why did God not take us to heaven immediately we repented? Why did he leave to stay on the earth?
I’m not denying that the world is grossly imbalanced and rigged against Christians. That doesn’t mean we should sit on our hands look at it degenerate. So much so that we cannot even worship our God in truth and in spirit, in comfort. Or some level of stability. But that’s beside the point I want to make. While I can go on and on and talk about all of the ways I think this isn’t proper, an example will substantiate it much better.
Christians cannot be activists- is one of the most common things we have always heard in the church. Christians cannot pursue social reforms whether inside the church or in the society, because according to ancient wisdom or ancient spiritual wisdom, God does not permit it.
We forget that there is specifically no place in the Bible where such a thing is recorded. Just a number of passages that talk about law and order. I think the question should be more about what kind of activism Christians can and cannot do. I believe it is going to be totally out of place for Christians to be the leading activists for the LGBTQ community.
The recent protest in Nigeria brought me as a person to a boiling point. I’ve not really challenged some of the points I have raised above, seeing that I’m mostly a conservative Christian. But when the issue of Police Brutality in Nigeria and the protest and activism became real, something changed. Or should I say a very dormant dilemma was aroused inside me. The issue of protest and activism hit closer to home than usual.
The Nigerian youth, whether as a Christian or not, and irrespective of their looks have been harassed by the forces that are supposed to protect them. But the Bible noted that authorities are not a terror to good works so what happens when it turns that way?
When the protest started, a lot of Christians sat back, me inclusive. But then one day, something happened as I was walking away from a friend’s place where we had talked about the protest. I started to review the issue in my mind and then some basic questions dropped, questions that I asked myself that made me reconsider my position. Here are some of the questions that I asked that brought me to the place where I currently am.
WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM THE POSITIVE RESULT IF THE PROTEST ACHIEVED IT?
The first question I asked was who would benefit from the result of these protests? As I asked the question, the answer became apparent. It started to point me in the direction I should follow. An end to police brutality means a better society for all. It meant that I could go about my duties around the nation without fear of being harassed by the people who are supposed to protect me.
But if you look at it from a spiritual point of view we have had a lot of death from police brutality and it’s obvious that most of these people have not heard the gospel and will die without it. Reducing that number of death would go a long way to give them the chance to be reached for Christ before they have to cross over to eternity. This made the protest a worthy cause.
On the same wavelength, I went back to the issue of strike within our universities to draw some parallels especially from the academic staff Union (ASUU) that always embarked on strike to get their demands from the Federal government. I would always ask myself why would these lecturers who decide to sit out of the strike action because they feel it is not scriptural for them to join still benefits from the result of the strike? Is it not contradictory? if the result of the strike will be enjoyed by all and you think that the strike is not biblical or is against God’s command, isn’t it eating the fruit of evil? Since you think the process that the money and other benefits were gotten contradicts your faith. If we truly agree that the means justifies the end, are we not being hypocrites?
DOES THE DESIGN OF THE PROTEST INCLUDE VIOLENCE?
I will never be a party to any form of violence. The bible clearly forbids that. I’m not about to start contradicting the Bible. The second question brought me to process. How do they want to achieve this change? The Bible categorically frowns at violence and you can see this in the scripture where Christ told Peter that those who live by the sword we will die by the sword. It is invariable that those who live by violence will eventually have violence undo them.
Given this backdrop, it was important to avoid any procedure that degenerated into violence or had the potential to degenerate into violence. I think that this might have been where the general issue of Christians avoiding social movement like this took place. But I strongly believe that the baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater. This protest was clearly stated that it was a peaceful one and that people would march and chant and shout whatever way they chose.
If a Christian took responsibility to head out to protest, the responsibility and onus also lay on him to pull himself out if such a protest started to degenerates. So it is also possible that they could have taken the previous position because it will not be ideal for a Christian to lose his life when a protest degenerated. He could have been termed careless. A classic example is when Josiah went to fight Pharaoh Necho against God’s instruction and warning giving through Pharaoh himself.
But this was originally designed to be a peaceful protest. There was also an online protest that garnered a lot of attention. I thought that pushing such a noble cause should be my responsibility. This is my civil service, and this is the way I can prevent hundreds and thousands of young people from going to eternity without having the choice or opportunity to meet their Lord and their Savior.
WOULD THIS PROTEST PLEASE GOD?
This was the third question I asked. You know, most of the time we come to this crossroads in our lives and we have this set of rules in our head about what would please God and what will not. We forget that we are where we are today, in the knowledge we have about Christianity because a certain group of people protested what they thought were wrong doctrines.
Christianity has experienced its own share of activism and that was what Jesus Christ did when he was on earth. He defied the prevailing religious system to establish a more balanced one. He went against the authority of the day and confronted them when he needed to.
We are talking about a social change but we must remember that Jesus wasn’t only about the spiritual. He combined it with areas of the law that were operational at the time. He included social reforms. For the Israelites at the time, religion was a way of life. It was a culture and Jesus challenged the prevailing cultural narrative because it was wrong. He was defiant when he needed to and spoke out against the authority when he had to.
As long as what we are fighting for will in one way or the other change souls, give them an opportunity to meet the Lord and make the society a more habitable place, the Lord is interested in it. God cannot lead a change when men fold their hands.
A lot of people don’t think that God is interested in the affairs of the world but the Bible says the contrary. God ruleth in the affairs of men. If our God, and father is interested in the affair of men, are we doing well by ignoring it even when it has come to our doorsteps?
WHAT IS THE SPIRIT OF GOD SAYING TO ME AS A PERSON?
This was the final question I asked, which should be one of the most important questions. What was the leading of God at the time? What was the Spirit of God resident in me saying at the point in time? As Christians, our defining seal is the spirit of God. These are the kind of times when we need it.
God in his wisdom has structured the church in a way that no two people can be doing exactly the same thing if it does not fulfill a specific purpose that he has ordained. God is the one who sees the bigger picture. The same happens in the world. When we give ourselves to the purpose of God, he uses us to accomplish what he has intended to accomplish in and around us.
Periods of great social upheavals like this are when Christians get frightful and miss the voice of God in their lives, guiding them to what they should do. For me, I took time out from within the turmoil and brewing anger and frustration at the kind of nation we had, to seek God. To seek him for the nation and to ask, like Paul; what would you have me do? God was asking me to be part of this protest but pray as I go online and become a twitter warrior.
During social movements, the unique opportunity we have as Christians is that while we can engage the forces of the natural and physical, we have more. We can engage our God in our daily battles. Then we can experience exponential growth, development and success beyond our human capacity. That was why it was important that we did not leave God out of this movement.
One of the things Christians failed to realize was that they may not necessarily have been physically present but they could have supported by being online, providing funds or praying -heartfelt heaven rending prayer for a nation at childbirth. The type that even heaven cannot ignore. Praying was supposed to go beyond the regular one-minute mouthing of request that came as an afterthought.
After having all of these thoughts I told myself that there is no way that I’d be in the society where I am and fold my arms, legs and mind. It would be a disservice to my society a disservice to myself, and ultimately a disservice to God who would have expected much better from me. So I picked my phone and started to tweet like the keyboard warrior my generation has been referred to as.