Thursday, December 30, 2010

What would Jesus Do?

What does it mean to be a 'good' Christian? Is it the faithful observance of rituals? If so, does it mean that if you are a member of one of the various and varying branches of Christianity that you are in a superior position compared to all the rest? When martin Luther nailed his theses to the Church doors, he set of a chain reaction that has yet to stop. Today, the practice of Christian faith is observed from the hallowed halls of roman catholic churches, Anglican parishes, and many more. IN Kenya, the 'established' churches observe rituals that go back centuries while the evangelical and Pentecostal ones are of more modern vintage. All profess to be the true path to heavenly glory and none is willing to give an inch to the other.

It has variously been claimed that Africa, and indeed Kenya, is a Christian region, where Christians outnumber the practitioners of other faiths. It is taken for granted that one is either a Christian or a Muslim. The other 'minor' faiths do not enjoy the prominence or notoriety of the Cristian faith in Kenya. During the recent referendum campaign, Christians were exhorted by their spiritual and religious leaders to vote along Christian lines and reject the Proposed Constitution because it had many un-Christian articles that would come to haunt the nation once it was ratified. However, it was never clear what Cristian tenets were at risk from the ratification of the Proposed Constitution, and as we emerge from the celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth who was the Christ, we are still left to our own devices when it comes to deciding what makes a good Christian.

This is my take, and it is influenced to a large extent by the notion that when God Almighty gave us a mind of our own, he expected of us the correct decision when it came to temporal matters and that in the end, we will be judged by how we worshipped him and whether we maintained our faith in His glory and power. Jesus, the father of Christianity, is captured in all His Glory in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark Luke and John. His words are reproduced for us to interpret and apply to our lives in the opes of seeing the gates of Heaven. However, it seems that the ritual of the Church has become the be all and end all of Christian faith, taking the place of what Christ actually called us to do and to be. It is more important to participate in the rituals than to observe the words of the Almighty. We place more faith in the interpretation of the importance of the ritual at the expense of the words themselves.

Christianity is like a club that excludes the non-believers even when they observe the spirit of the faith more faithfully than the spirit of Holy Scripture. Therefore, the modern interpretation is that those who diligently and faithfully attend church services and observe the rituals are 'true' Christians, with a guaranteed ticket to heaven, than those whose relationship with their church is tenuous at best. So, we must be seen to be good rather than actually be good. This, I believe, is the reason why we place such great stock in the participation of politicians in the church activities, even when we know they are liars, cheats and murderers.

The pillars of Christianity may include the rituals, but they should also include such virtues as honesty, charity, faith in the Almighty, subjection to His Will, trust in His Mercy, and all the acts and actions that we consider virtuous. So what if some of the Christians have not been to church service in 20 years? The rituals should serve as a reminder of the significance of the words and acts of the Christ; they should not be a replacement for true faith. when we witness to un-believers, it should be on the basis of faith and not judgment of their status as un-believers. It is not our place to judge whether or not their path will lead to hell or heaven; we should minister to them in the spirit of fellowship, knowing that we are going about our Father's Business. My pastor should advise me that certain actions are verbotten; that I am to speak, think and act as Christ would have. It is not his business to predict the eternal hellfire that my soul shall endure simply because I did not take Communion or I did not attend service. When I act or speak, will my action or speech endanger my immortal soul? That should be the question at the forefront of all Christian activity. For me to be a good Christian, it is my responsibility to speak and act with the intention of doing good whether it is recognised as such or not. Therefore, I should honour my parents, love my neighbour, and maintain my steadfast belief that Almighty God is the only one to be worshipped. Ritual is the helper for meeting my obligation to be good; it is not proof that I am good.

As the clock inexorably ticks towards the Second Coming (and the end of 2010), we must remember that as Kenyans we have treated our fellowman shamefully. We have allowed families to be torn asunder. We have murdered in the name of tribes and ethnic communities and political ideals. Today, thousands of Kenyans who were killed, maimed or forced out of their homes, await the recognition by their fellow Kenyans that crimes were committed against them in the name of politics. They await our speeches and actions infused with Christian ideals. We continue to disappoint them. We are truly committed to being the worst of the worst, keeping these families in limbo while they wait for earthly justice. On the Day of Judgment will we truly say that we did all that was possible to offer solace and justice to this men, women and children?

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