Does it make sense to be a Christian in today’s world?
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” -Socrates
Despite the unprecedented health challenges experienced in 2020 and the spill-over into 2021, and all the familiar injustices challenging the moral fiber of our society, we still acknowledge the abiding presence of God in our lives. With the emergence of the COVID - 19 in late 2019, coupled with the continued manifestation of racial injustice, systemic racism, hatred, and unconscious bias, it is unbelievable 2021 is now upon us with the usual challenges. Worse still, when unfavorable global economic policies were designed and enforced by the neo-imperialist to favor the connected and powerful, we can wholeheartedly say God has been the refuge of the poor and oppressed. When the history of the human race has deliberately categorized human beings into sub-categories to pave the way for the construction and maintenance of dominant descriptions used to conceal biases and prejudices influencing our world today, we gladly say we saw the hand of God protecting, providing, and uplifting the loud voices of the marginalized with hope and courage. In all these circumstances, we felt and recognized God's presence. We were comforted by His word. While we appreciate and acknowledge God's presence in our lives despite all these challenges, the question still stands; does it make sense to be a Christian in today's world?
My critical analysis of Socrates' statement above has helped me frame and shape my theological position to examine the Christian faith and its teachings. Through this analysis, I have realized and alluded to the fact that unexamined economic policies, academic theories, political ideologies, and worse still, theological positions are not worth pursuing and practicing. There is no logic to continue believing in whatever we believe in if we cannot ask ourselves tough questions about our faith. I have to point out here that questioning our faith to understand why we practice the way we do is not to lessen our faith in God. I know questioning our faith can be very uncomfortable because it exposes our biases and prejudices in our interpretation of scriptures and how doctrines are formulated and conveyed through the practice of our faith.
Nonetheless, questioning our faith helps us shade all these biases and prejudices we hold while aligning our faith with God's will. Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to ask tough questions about himself and his ministry. The scriptures offer evidence, especially in the book of Matthew 16: 13, which says: "When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" By posing this question, Jesus wanted to know if His teachings made sense and connected with his audience. He wanted to know if they knew who the Son of Man was and connected with Him, as described in the scriptures. When Peter answered this question and explained his position, Jesus was quick to acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit working in Peter by saying: "… Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but my father in heaven, verse 17." When we ask tough questions about who we are as people of faith, we tap into the spiritual realm, and we open our eyes anew and experience the love and grace of God.
Our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to assess all that is perceived and professed as the truth. When we examine or question the socioeconomic policies, political ideologies, and theological discourses, we expose hidden agendas designed to twist the truth and misrepresent our time's realities. Using the words of Nigerian Politician Chuba Okadidgo, who said, "If you are emotionally attached to your tribe, religion, or political leaning to the point that truth and justice become secondary considerations, your education is useless. Your exposure is useless. If you cannot reason beyond petty sentiments, you are a liability to mankind." Hence, questioning your emotional attachment to the ideals you value most is vital to understanding your faith behavior.
I am always inspired by the prophet Habakkuk who mastered and appreciated the value of asking tough questions. His ability to design tough questions helped him to align his faith with what was perceived to be God's will for Israel. Additionally, it also enabled him to develop prophetic oracles to warn Israel and speak on behalf of God. His questioning was inspired by what was happening in society and the priest's role at the temple. If you read the first chapter of Habakkuk, you would see how the prophet was struggling with what he was seeing. In Habakkuk chapter 1, verse 3, the prophet is posing these constructive questions: "Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflicts abound." His faith in God and the knowledge of God's word compelled him to ask these tough questions in the form of a complaint, which led him to speak the truth to power with love and grace.
Making sense of our faith in today's chaotic world entails examining all discourses conveying force hopes and all counter-narratives designed to dislodge the foundation of our faith in God. It requires aligning our faith with scriptures and exposing all the schemes used to keep God's people in bondage. Guided by the love and the weight of responsibility endowed upon us through the grace of God, we should always remind ourselves of who we are in today's world. In the words of Zimbabwean Professor Canaan Banana, "... Neutrality at best means deafening silence and indifference and at worst smiling and admiring the status quo. I refused to accept the notion that Jesus assumed the role of honored guest in the theater of human slaughter and misery. He intervened in human affairs and challenged the principalities and powers that denied God's children right to life and fundamental human liberties." We are to imitate the life and ministry of Christ if we are to make sense of our faith in today's world. Jesus did not look aside when the rulers and the society mistreated the poor, sick, and sinners of his day. His ministry was more pragmatic, tolerant, and relevant when dealing with socioeconomic, political, and theological challenges. Hence, as people of faith, we are called to be in solidarity with those shunned by our society, labeled as the poor, homeless, and the oppressed. We are to speak up on behalf of those demonized as traitors for holding alternative views on socioeconomic policies, political ideologies, and theological points of view. We are to demonstrate the love and grace of God in all that we do.
A critical examination of our faith and its application should grow out of the knowledge of God's word and the power of its transformation. As the body of Christ, the church, we are called to set examples that will bring hope and peace to the world. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "The church is the church today because it is taking part in the suffering of Christ." Participating in the suffering of Christ is to acknowledge the pain and suffering we see in the world. It entails speaking out against any form of oppression. Making sense of our faith in today's world is to ask questions that will help us understand why Jesus died. Why did He humble himself and die a shameful death? These questions will help us understand and appreciate the depth of God's love for humanity. With these questions, we discern and tap from our moral obligation and spiritual maturity that comes from seeking to learn and know God's will for humanity.
We question when people who are created in the image of God are mistreated because of their historical background, economic background, social status, ability, and sexual orientation. Through the love of God, we identify, analyze, and question all uniformed discourses designed to protect the interest of the few. We are called to be humble. Not to behave like the Pharisees and the Sadducees who believed they were the true custodians of their time's laws and traditions. I pray that "Our Still Speaking God" will strengthen us as we develop an understanding of faith that will bring hope and life to those in our society's margins. Like the prophet Habakkuk, I pray that you will be troubled when you see evil in our midst. I pray that together we will be inspired by the Holy Spirit's power to ask tough questions that will help us connect with God and ourselves as we try to make sense of our faith in today's world.
I hope that 2021 will inspire you to be the person that God wants you to be as we face our time's challenges. Don't lose hope, believe in God, and stay strong in your faith.
See you soon.