#OCCUPY TILL I COME-Pastor Tony Rapu

Following the Government’s removal of the subsidy on petroleum products, Nigeria has been convulsed by widespread protests. Citizens are taking to the streets and airwaves to air their vehement opposition in the strongest possible but peaceful terms. Unfortunately, the protests have not been without loss of life, politicization of the issues, and hijack by miscreants. Petrol pump prices have jumped by more than one hundred percent, and collateral increases will surely affect transport, food and other areas. To most Nigerians, the Government’s move deepens the intense economic hardship they already grapple with. This is a chance to voice and act out the people’s dissatisfaction with the insensitivity and corruption in Government. In reality, the protests have taken on a life of their own and the issues have gone beyond increased petrol prices. They have become the cry of a nation in its birth pangs; the travail of a people desperate to take back their nation from the hands of kleptocrats.

Many are inquiring about the apparent silence of Christian leaders, in the face of the intensified suffering of the people and the wave of activism sweeping the Nation. More vehement critics have accused the clergy of being turncoats, callous and insensitive people who are beholden to corrupt officials and therefore unwilling to stand with the masses to resist injustice. The people are angry, possibly like no other time before now, and are calling into serious question, the credibility of Christian leaders, politicians and others in positions of authority.

But we must be careful not to conclude that all clergy who are reticent about public protests or opposition to the Government have been bought over by politicians. Many such leaders are uninformed, politically, and thus remain passive about policy development, despite heightened awareness in some issue areas. This might be due to their ministry training and understanding of the Christian mission. Many, concerned about slipping into a social gospel and a misconception of the Church’s role in society, have avoided involvement in social action. Other leaders may be silent because of their felt need to balance the imperative of spiritual awareness with their social responsibility. They may recognize the twin demands of personal righteousness and social justice: that on the one hand, we have a responsibility to pray for the Nation and its rulers, engage in intercession, prophetic acts and spiritual warfare – yet simultaneously translate these into action in the public arena, policy and government.

The Bible teaches that God intervenes in the affairs of men and charts the course of nations and peoples. As such, these leaders are aware of their responsibility to communicate the need to be sensitive to God’s movement and agenda, and to allow such sensitivity guide our actions as citizens and as members of the society. These are not “either/or” propositions. Christians must operate with both sensibilities. There can be no such thing as being so spiritual as to cease involvement in society. Conversely, we must not become so submerged in social action, that we lose prophetic awareness and sensitivity to the urgings of the Spirit of God.

There is a place for prayer, but there is also a place for seeking accuracy of governance in society. We must enthrone the virtues of God’s Kingdom, infuse systems and institutions with the right ethics and mentalities, and ensure public policies are grounded in the right ethical and theoretical frameworks. The development of righteousness in the soul parallels the construction of a just society. Therefore, throughout the Bible, we see God’s unmistakable concern for both personal righteousness and social justice.

It should be acknowledged that some pastors have opened the door to criticism through uncritical alignment with politicians. They may assume that such liaisons signal influence and authority in society. These leaders have thus earned the ire of the masses for refusing to condemn the same politicians when they do wrong. Certainly, the judgment of our Nation’s decadence will involve a judgment of any unholy alliances between corrupted power and corrupted clergy.

There is also a category of leaders for whom social activism is uncertain, unfamiliar territory. Unsure of the nuances and details of politics and economics, they are unwilling to dabble into matters of which they are uncomfortable and do not have the requisite competencies. This group sees the need for activism, and their awareness of the generalities permits them to make measured pronouncements of support and understanding for the activists; however, they know too little to become hands on activists, and so limit their utterances to the pulpit. The rationale is that it does one no credit to engage in a fight in which he lacks the requisite information or conviction.

Clergymen are expected to stand in opposition to injustice and corruption, and to defend the downtrodden. Happily, activism can take different forms, from participating in street protests to direct involvement in party politics, or even pursuing social change by working with the poor and disenfranchised, providing amenities where Government has failed to do so.

There is also the place of combating the negative ideas and value systems that sustain the corruption and degeneracy that we bemoan in society. Opposition to evil is not only physical; it is spiritual, moral and intellectual. Those who are opposed to evil and desire change should therefore be gracious to one another; for we are essentially on the same side, differing only in our choice of strategies and the means of effecting revolution and transformation. There is room enough for tactical variety in tackling societal ills. Some pastors are much more comfortable in direct social activism, because of their temperaments, experience and callings. Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jnr. and Janani Luwum (the Ugandan Archbishop murdered by Idi Amin in 1977) are examples of clergy who vigorously resisted racism, apartheid and oppression. In any event, we cannot expect absolute unanimity from Christian leaders on all social and political issues.

Jesus said to His disciples “Occupy till I come”. He wanted Christians to infiltrate world systems and operate in every sphere; from corridors of power in government to the catwalks of the fashion industry, operating as ‘salt’ and ‘light’ and sanitizing the world…until the “kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord” and “the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the seas”.

The question of a person’s public activism also rests on where he is on his own personal spiritual odyssey. Clergymen who are reluctant to publicly challenge the status quo may quite simply not have attained conviction about public witness and prophetic activism. Contrary to popular belief, pastors are not all-knowing oracles. They also have to mature into their callings. However from a Christian perspective, there is a time when more prayer becomes spiritual escapism, just as there is also a time when social action guided by nothing more than raw emotion and adrenalin becomes an ineffectual “striving in the flesh”. There is a time to withdraw in order to obtain fresh spiritual and moral strength for the struggle. This was Jesus’ method. He said He only did what He saw the Father do. There is also a time to stop praying and actualize what has been received in prayer. As with all things, the key is discernment of what is needful for each season, and striking the appropriate balance.

Ultimately, the project of redeeming a nation, like that of individual salvation, is a journey rather than a destination. Our constant posture should be the empowerment of Christians to act as agents of renewal implementing the redemption of society, systems and structures. Pastors should equip people with tools with which to accurately decipher their roles and increase their impact in society.

The Church shapes the character and thinking of the people, who in turn shape the character and direction of the Nation. It is said that America’s greatness was rooted in the churches. However, it was not just any church, but those whose pulpits were aflame with the message of righteousness, and a message encompassing all of life. To “occupy”, whether in the activist sense of protesting governmental corruption, or the apostolic sense of transforming earthly institutions into zones of peace and prosperity – is our calling.

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5 responses to “#OCCUPY TILL I COME-Pastor Tony Rapu

  1. Carefully-worded, very tentative, and somewhat conciliatory article; I will sum up my reaction thus… There is a time for everything. This a time to speak truth to power.

    Pastor Sir; if Jesus Christ were alive today in human form, what would the Prince of Peace have done?

    Ignored the disingenuous and ill-timed Fuel Subsidy Removal or opposed it spiritually (40 days & 40 nights fasting in the wilderness) and/or physically (as he opposed the mercantile corruption of the Temple)?

    The disappointment most people feel isn’t so much in the inability of Pastors to mature to their activist callings (if attuned to that track), but rather in their almost culpable silence from the pulpit and their sometimes unabashed fraternity with or deference to those in power (be they genuine or not, and usually under the guise of apolitical-ness).

    If someone has stolen an election and by virtue of a hitherto inept citizenry and electoral body/process, in my book, Men of God MUST condemn that person’s action. Men of God must be as bold as Jesus was in speaking truth to power and letting the chips fall where there may.

    There should be no carefully balancing reactions or tentative threading of critical needles where the confrontation of evil is necessary. Daniel, Shedrach, Meshack, and Abednego demonstrated this and there are numerous other biblical examples.

    The excuse that we must ‘pray for those whom God has put in power over us’ is convenient and gives room for misguided conciliation. We live in perilous times; the Church must by nature and necessarily so, take up a divine role on the side of social justice and activism.

    Pastors who are averse to this kind of direct or activist evangelism should step back; but also be ready to be criticized and disregarded if they ‘lay hands on hoodlums and charlatans’ who by hook or crook, by omission or commission, have appropriated political power selfishly for themselves.

    Pastors, if it is truly their calling to minister and if the Lord speaks to them and gives them deep spiritual insight, must necessarily KNOW and receive divine instruction from the Almighty regarding who these hoodlums and charlatans are by their antecedents, actions, intentions (spoken or otherwise), and manifest behavior.

    After all, though it is by their fruits that ye shall know them; Pastors receive divine instructions from God and must be able to foretell the heart of such men when they come calling for such ‘laying of hands’. Nevertheless, when mistakes are made, Pastors must not be averse to admitting these and making amends.

    There are known knowns and these are the things that we know that are known; Pastors do not live or operate in a vacuum, and must not shy away from the responsibility of being called to a higher purpose – spiritually or through divinely ordained activism.

    Vocal condemnation of evil or wrong policy choices from Pastors does not have to come by their alignment with Political Parties, it can happen everyday from the pulpit and by the authority of divine instruction not to fraternize with corrupted political power or allow a previous commendation of a political figure stand in the way of a needed condemnation of such political figure’s misguided words or actions.

    Ignoring or downplaying or tangentially addressing impunity or degenerative acts, polices, etc. of misguided or disingenuous leaders isn’t an option. Pastors have a divine charge to speak truth to power. In Nigeria today, power has run amok, is reckless, dangerous, and uncaring. Indeed those attuned to dialogue with it, seem to be locked in an unyielding dialogue with the deaf.

    No matter how well-intentioned a Government is, its authority resides on the aspirations for social justice of majority of the people. Its sovereignty is derived from the moral capital and political choice of said majority.

    The Body of Christ and its Pastors must necessarily – actively and vocally be on the side of truth and social justice; else both lose their authority and relevance to adherents and observers respectively.

  2. Pastors, if it is truly their calling to minister and if the Lord speaks to them and gives them deep spiritual insight, must necessarily KNOW and receive divine instruction from the Almighty regarding who these hoodlums and charlatans are by their antecedents, actions, intentions (spoken or otherwise), and manifest behavior.

    After all, though it is by their fruits that ye shall know them; Pastors receive divine instructions from God and must be able to foretell the heart of such men when they come calling for such ‘laying of hands’. Nevertheless, when mistakes are made, Pastors must not be averse to admitting these and making amends.

    There are known knowns and these are the things that we know that are known; Pastors do not live or operate in a vacuum, and must not shy away from the responsibility of being called to a higher purpose – spiritually or through divinely ordained activism.

    Vocal condemnation of evil or wrong policy choices from Pastors does not have to come by their alignment with Political Parties, it can happen everyday from the pulpit and by the authority of divine instruction not to fraternize with corrupted political power or allow a previous commendation of a political figure stand in the way of a needed condemnation of such political figure’s misguided words or actions.

    Ignoring or downplaying or tangentially addressing impunity or degenerative acts, polices, etc. of misguided or disingenuous leaders isn’t an option. Pastors have a divine charge to speak truth to power. In Nigeria today, power has run amok, is reckless, dangerous, and uncaring. Indeed those attuned to dialogue with it, seem to be locked in an unyielding dialogue with the deaf.

    No matter how well-intentioned a Government is, its authority resides on the aspirations for social justice of majority of the people. Its sovereignty is derived from the moral capital and political choice of said majority.

  3. The Body of Christ and its Pastors must necessarily – actively and vocally be on the side of truth and social justice; else both lose their authority and relevance to adherents and observers respectively.

  4. I like those words they ar food for tought,buh however Revolution Ȋ̝̊̅§ personal nd not to be force on human.Rather they shuld b sensitise,some youth ar dissapointed cos som big clergy men didn’t come out to conderm openly,but i believe they ar entitle to their opinion its all about choice,he who wears d shoe knws W̶̲̥̅̊♓ξя̩̥̊ξ it pinches most so let’s leave them nd do our thing.i believe they hav been interceding nd still interceding for d Nation.They shuldnt make anyone feel discourage.some people ar even crying Đ‎​‎‎​​ąτ̲̅ people like Dbanj, Genevieve etc they wll not make any difference we feel it more so let’s not be discourage wif God on our side,we wll chase all of them corrupt Politicians away we wll scared them to death,cos we ar ready to eat their flesh meal

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