This note was written by a scholar and a Christian. I found it challenging especially in times like this where Nigerian special brand of Christianity is either brainwashing people to robots (spouting what a religious leader said as opposed to coming to terms with the corruption that leader has indulged in) , becoming indifferent, or disassociating themselves from the Christianity.
It is a long but enlightening piece aimed at stimulating the reader's intellect and aid an internal audit of ones Christian walk..hope you enjoy it as much as I did.....
Is it nothing to you? Indifference is guilt in God’s court of justice
by Seun Kolade
We have established that God cannot be the patron of godlessness; the God of Justice cannot be the defender of the oppressor; the God of truth will not provide cover and comfort for liars; the Holy God cannot accommodate iniquity and inequity within himself. What about human beings? Is it possible for a person to serve both God and Mammon? Can he oppress in the day and offer worthy thanks in the evening? Can she, in the words of the Prophet Elijah, successfully “falter between two opinions”?
Let us begin by first eliminating one obvious scenario, that it is impossible, as we have seen, for a true Christian to actively collaborate or participate in acts of oppression and injustice. It is against the very essence of his calling; it is against the fundamental nature of God who has called her. But is it alright for him to watch by quietly, or lock himself away from the heat of the battle?
One of the favourite past times of people, now as in ancient time, is to sit by and watch. It could be the small screen at home, or the big screen at the Cinema. From the highways to the busy street all the way to the large sport stadia, we just love to watch. And whenever trouble come, we instinctively run for cover. No, we don’t want to be involved. But make no mistake, when injustice and oppression pervades the land and there is something, however little, that we can do, God considers us guilty, “for him who knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). In Obadiah verse 10- 13 God strongly condemned a whole nation for “violence” against a brother nation on the day oppressors invaded and ransacked them. But the condemned in the passage were not invaders so what was the ‘violence’? “On that day you stood there and didn't do anything. Strangers took your brother's army into exile... You stood there and watched. You were as bad as they were”. (Obadiah Vs 10-13, The Message Translation). There you have it. Silence can be violent, which is why we are explicitly instructed to “cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression”.
The option of silence, of neutrality, is not acceptable in the matter of justice and fairness. We are either for it, or against it. We may differ in our levels of strength and resources, but God at least expect us to make the little effort we can, to “Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Now talking about the little we can do, can we not pray? Of course we can, and we should. Alright. Is prayer all that God requires? Does prayer exonerate or exempt us from other responsibilities as far as justice and fairness is concerned?
Pray and just pray?
It will be a big error for us to under-estimate or undervalue the efficacy of prayer. There are, infact, numerous examples in the Bible of great things accomplished by means of prayer. We are told, in very clear terms, that the “prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). In response to prayer, the waters of the red sea were parted, the walls of Jericho came down crashing, Peter was miraculously saved from prison, and the widow’s son was raised. And this are just few examples affirming the efficacy of prayer. But let us return to the passage above, where it refers specifically to the prayer of “the righteous”. Now, to be sure, this is not talking of self-righteousness, but it certainly implies right living and right doing of one who has received God’s own righteousness. To buttress this, we are told in no uncertain terms that “the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).
Who, then, is the upright? We have already established he is one whose righteousness is first from God, the ultimate source and fountain of all that is Good. The upright man, then, is also he who manifests in his daily life the character of God- of love, truth and justice. Conversely, the wicked is he who, by wilful acts of omission or commission, does not manifest godly conduct. For him, this latter man, prayer is not only ineffectual but positively abominable, and we have been told of one telling incidence in which two men incurred God’s wrath because they are wicked, and their sacrificial prayer was deemed ‘strange’ and unacceptable (Leviticus 10:1-2).
The bottom line is that God is incensed, rather than impressed, by hypocritical prayer of people who practise or support oppression by active collaboration or silent acquiescence. Prayer can not substitute for right-doing, and this right-doing necessarily include speaking and acting against oppression and injustice. But, if a choice were to be made, we are told that “obedience”, right-doing, is “better than sacrifice”. Indeed, to affirm this message with greater clarity, God said “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15) and Christ declared “woe” on religious hypocrites “for you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer; therefore you shall receive the greater condemnation” (Matthew 23:14).
There is one more obstacle for us to tackle. By now we understand the matters of justice and fairness is at the heart of right-living, and should go along, rather than be replaced by, prayer, but what should be done when these are muddled with partisan politics? Is it best, or at least acceptable under such circumstance, to keep aloof and neutral?
Is Justice Politics?
First, it is important for us to affirm that the believer is well within his right to participate in partisan politics, much as he is right no to get involved. In essence, involvement is always an option, never a necessity. But a defence, and practice, of justice and fairness, is a necessity, not an option. Sometimes, justice is related to political issues, most times it is not, but even when it is related to politics, it is yet distinct from it. In this latter case it is the Christian’s responsibility, and very much a possibility, to separate one from the other, knowing fully well that necessity is always on him to stand and act for justice and fairness.
Let us examine purely civic matters that are often confused with partisan politics. If a citizen, or group of them, are unjustly mal-handled by law enforcement authorities, especially (but not only) when such injustice is glaring, like a case of prejudicial killing or injury. In this case, and others like it, it is the Christian responsibility, by no means an option, to speak and act up in defence of the oppressed victims. Like light which exposes, it is his duty to expose, not cover up, every known deed of wickedness and injustice. In matters related to politics, it is her duty to recognise that a case of voters’ disenfranchisement or election violence is, for example, a matter of justice and fairness and not of partisan politics. Like the widow and the fatherless in the passage we have seen, it is his duty to defend the rights of whose voice are being silenced, people who are being deprived of their rightful benefits in the society. He is obliged to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:8-9).
We are approaching the conclusion of our inquiry now. Now that we know that justice and fairness are very important elements of the Christian gospel, that God has been slandered by lying impostors who portray him as a patron of the unjust, and that silence and indifference is not an option in matters relating to justice and fairness, it remains for us to consider practical steps we can take in the pursuit and defence of justice. In this consideration it will help, and not least to rectify the smears incurred from impostors, to consider examples of men in history and contemporary times, who, motivated by their faith in God, have stood up to be counted, and worked with relentless dedication and zeal to bring about the triumph of justice in their different places and times.