Colossians 3:12-14 ”Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. “
“Ouch, you just stepped on my toe,” I exclaimed. “Sorry” came the almost automatic reflex response. It happened again and I was beginning to wonder whether it was intentional or inadvertent that she always stepped on my toes. Is there is no way to tell that this was premeditated?
Stepping on toes is a rather commonplace occurrence one wonders why it warrants a blog post. It however reflects a bigger challenge, the challenge of offense or injury in relationships - family, marriage, friends, colleagues, peers, acquaintances, etc. As one writer notes, because we are different, we will offend each other from time to time. Whether it is a word improperly spoken, a displeasing action or some other thing one party considers unacceptable or hurtful, we have all come to “offense junction.” How does one deal with this?
I suggest a number of plausible options:
1. Retaliate in the same measure or greater i.e. revenge
2. Ignore the offense in the hope that it will not be repeated
3. Confront the offender in the hope of resolution
4. Accept the offense and develop long-suffering
5. Some combination of the above.
Option 1 is often our first go to. Paul however has some advise for us:
Romans 12:19-21 ”Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (emphasis mine)
Option 2 may work for a while but we all have a tipping point beyond which we are likely to take some drastic actions. Have you ever wondered why a calm and collected boyfriend or husband one day takes a machete and butchers his partner/spouse? It may well be that the bottled-up anger and displeasure has crossed tipping point. Wisdom may be seen in knowing what to ignore but it is also seen in knowing what to confront or talk about. Not everything should be swept under the carpet.
This brings us to the third option: confronting. Depending on our temperament and upbringing we might be inclined to do this in a loud way or softly. This may be a needful thing at some point in time. I believe this is what Matthew 18:14-20 speaks about. Here, it is suggested that if your brother offends you, you speak to him privately. If he persists, the next course of action is to solicit the help of two or three others. Failing that, the Church is your next point of appeal beyond which the Scriptures recommend treating him as a “pagan.” That solves the matter doesn’t it? Methinks no. The situation becomes a bit more difficult when we hear something Paul has to say:
Colossians 3:12-14 ”Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. “
It is this same Paul who says 1 Corinthians 13:4a ”Charity suffereth long, and is kind;” (KJV) or “Love is patient, love is kind.” (NIV)
The matter is made more confounding when one reads the account from Matt 18:21-35 which concludes the earlier part in which we are advised to treat the person as a pagan. Here, in response to Peter’s question on how many times to forgive his brother when he sins against him, Jesus answers “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” This seems to agree with Paul who suggests we bear with each other or suffer long. How do we reconcile it with the earlier suggestion to treat people as pagans after we’ve tried to discuss the issue of offense? I believe historicity and context might help us arrive at some agreeable conclusion which will lead us to option 4 mentioned earlier.
The Matthew 18 discourse happened in Galilee where they were accustomed with Jewish laws. Jesus’ modus operandi has always been the same. He took what the people knew and then extended it to bring to the light the requirements of grace. The most typical example is in Matthew 5 and 6 where he says “you have heard it said ….but I tell you.” He essentially began with what the people knew and then went on to build a bridge to what Grace required of His followers. Here, he appealed to a custom known to them and recorded in Deut 19:15ff.
Having asked people to treat their brothers as pagans if they were unwilling to dialogue, Peter asked an intelligent and leading question that allowed Jesus to bring closure to the issue of offense/being sinned against. It seems that Peter was trying to find out how many times his brother should sin against him before he goes ahead with the 3 step process. Jesus changed the dynamics; He was essentially introducing the concepts Paul would espouse later. By suggesting “seventy times seven” (KJV) or “seventy-seven times” (NIV) I believe He was saying aforetime what Paul repeats in 1 Cor 13:5 : Love “….keeps no record of wrongs.” Think about it, tracking seventy-seven or 490 offenses per person is quite a task in itself. I believe Jesus was trying to let us know a couple of things.
1. Offense will come
As Jonathan Edwards notes, “if we are not disposed meekly to bear injuries, we are not fitted to live in the world, for in it we must expect to meet with many injuries from men.” The nicest of us will offend one person or the other. We will also feel offended by one person or the other. We must strive to honour God and in keeping with His will minimize deliberate offense to others. And yet this will not preclude offense. While we can take some pragmatic steps to minimize offense, we must allow what we experience to develop in us patience/long-suffering which leads to the second and third lessons I believe we can extract.
2. Always weigh offense in the light of your offense against God
I have heard it said and have sometimes even said it myself that I cannot forgive someone for one offense or the other. However, anytime I stand before God in gratitude for His amazing gift of forgiveness, I realize that I may be attempting to deny others what I have freely received. If I believe the line of the “Lord’s prayer” that says “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” how can I expect God to forgive me when I withhold the same gift from others? I will be no different from the servant in Matt 18:21-35 who was owed a few coins and tormented his debtor when in fact his master had forgiven him a much greater debt.
As Edwards notes, I can hear someone say “but you don’t know what they did to me. You don’t know what they took away from me. You don’t, you don’t, you don’t….” You are right, I might never know what you feel but God does. He gave us everything and yet we sinned requiring Him to send His son to die for us. Nothing that has been done to us is more grievous than the sin we commit against God. If we expect God to forgive us, we must of necessity forgive others. Don’t burn the bridge across which you must cross. As I note elsewhere: “Forgiveness is the gift we always owe each other.” And thirdly:
3. Accept offense and let God teach you long-suffering
I owe this thought to Jonathan Edwards whom I quote summarily:
“But you may still further say, that those who have injured you, persist in it, and do not at all repent but go on doing it still. But what opportunity could there be for long-suffering, if injury were not persisted in long? If injuries are continued, it may be for the very purpose, in providence, of trying whether you will exercise long-suffering and meekness, and that forbearance that has been spoken of. And did God not bear with you, when you persisted in offending Him? When you have been obstinate, and self-willed, and persevering in your injuries against Him, has he ceased to exercise His long-suffering toward you?”
God is long-suffering or patient with us and through offense He can fashion the same in us. In a generation in which psychology and motivational speeches advise us to guard against being “used” and tolerating offense for the sake of losing our self-respect and ego, it will be considered sacrilege to suggest this “martyr complex” path i.e. to learn long-suffering/patience through offense. Through personal experience, I am convicted that God would not have us reside with anger/hatred/bitterness and yet He alone can fashion long-suffering in us through these otherwise difficult occurrences.
We don’t expect people to offend us and somehow we expect better. Well God expects better too but He keeps extending His rope of mercy and grace to us despite the heinousness of the sins we commit against Him. If we expect Him to be so patient/long-suffering, He expects the same of us and is willing to teach us through our experiences. The Christianity of the day avoids any form of difficulty or pain but I have learnt that this is often God’s chosen way to perfect His saints. As one poet notes: “God ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects; He bends but never breaks, while His good He undertakes.”
So I challenge you to take a new view. Love suffers long; love keeps no record of wrongs, love remembers how much it has been forgiven and bears all things thankful for another lesson in long-suffering//patience. We are becoming more like God and growing in His love when we are in fact growing in long-suffering. Is it any wonder that Gal 5:23ff records patience/long-suffering as one of the fruit of the spirit. Might I ask, how well are you doing in that department? A pithy saying from Twitter seems to sum this up well:
Patience with others is LOVE. Patience with self is HOPE. Patience with God is FAITH. (Author Unknown)
Theology is that abstruse and boring subject that pastors study in seminary so they can be better equipped to teach us the word of God. Although contrived, that definition seems to adequately represent the opinion of many Christians on the subject of theology. Isn’t it true that theology is the preserve of pastors, ministers, evangelists, preachers and theological seminary lecturers? Methinks no!
The word is itself derived from two Greek words: “Theos” (meaning God) and “logos.” A more accurate definition of theology might be the study of God or the study of God through His word. If doctors study medicine and lawyers study law while in school, it seems to make sense that theologians, pastors and other spiritual workers study theology while in school. If we do not try to get everyone to study medicine, why bother people with studying theology? I think we can trace the answer to a profound statement by eminent African theologian, Kwesi A. Disckson who says simply but profoundly that “everyone theologizes.”
At first glance that seems quite untrue but further reflection reveals the veracity of the claim. As pioneer Ghanaian theologian, Prof. Kwame Bediako notes, “theology is an attempt to say something about God in the belief that He has already said something about Himself.” An example will suffice: In Ghana, rains before elections are often translated as portentous of calm and peace before, during and after elections. Many people will translate the rains as a sign from God – an attempt to say something about God, in the belief that He has said something (through the rain.)
Take, as a second example, the Akan expression “Nyame na ɔma na Nyame na ɔgye.” (“God gives and God takes away.”) This statement which is often used to console mourning family and friends suggests that we are saying something about God (that He gives and takes away) through the death (what He may have spoken). Thus, whether we are complaining about the weather, trying to understand why a loved one is terminally ill, trying to explain some success or positive development in our lives, etc., we say something about God (and more often about how we think He’s acting).
So if we strip away all the enigmatic language, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and terms the pastors and scholars use, it should be agreeable that we all say something about God or at least try to explain one action of His or the other. It is those silent sighs, the overt questions and the proffered explanations that Kwesi A Dickson speaks of as theologizing. So you see, you are already in the theology club! What does it matter?
Recently and most prevalent in churches with a charismatic bend is the expression, “pastor says,” “bishop says,” archbishop says,” “prophet says,” etc. Essentially, many Christians today are satisfied once their spiritual leader makes a statement. For many who seek miracles and “breakthroughs” they leave their minds at the door endure sometimes humiliating actions in the quest to obtain one thing or the other. Is it a violation of Scripture to question an explanation or statement by your pastor? Is it sacrilege to disagree with a spiritual “papa” or “mama” when you sense they might be in error or when their “rhema” is in disagreement with the rest of Scripture? Hear Paul as he warns the Church in Thessalonica:
“Test everything. Hold on to the good.” – 1 Thess 5:21
Is Paul actually suggesting that some of the things that come from these “spiritual authorities” may not be good? It could very well be so! The trend however today is not to question those in authority or power but to act them literally in the place of God over the life of the flock. As to who gave this absolute authority to an individual and the like, we will leave for another article. However Frank Viola and George Barna have a lot to say in Pagan Christianity, a book I heartily recommend to all believers.
In Acts 17:10ff, the account of Paul’s work in Berea is recorded. Most significantly, he writes “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11, emphasis mine.) What a glorious picture! Three things – nobility, habit (“every day”) and truth.
How many of us have taken time to take notes and spend time checking the things our pastors, bishops and other clerics say against the Scriptures? Do we have a habit of doing so even if it isn’t every day? Do we find that the things they are saying are true or the truth? Without needing empirical research, I can conclude the vast majority don’t. In fact, in between Sundays, we usually do not have a Bible Study life so how will we even check, let alone learn more and edify our “inner man?”
So the question is why do you believe Jesus is the way (c.f. 1 Pet 3:15)? Why do you think abortion is wrong? Which is the correct way to baptize? Why do you tithe? Is it really true that as a believer you should not fall sick? Are problems signs that there is something wrong with your faith? Does God want to make you rich? Do your words hold all the power in the world? Why is there evil in the world? Why do bad people prosper and some good people suffer? Why do you believe what you believe? Why do you do what you do?
There is a whole host of questions which ten life times will not be enough to answer but God wants you to come to Him and build a relationship based on trust and truth not on tradition or just some mindless copying or imitation.
Granted, there are some people like Luther who must commit their whole life and focus on some of the more abstruse parts of the faith – possibly things like predestination, like eschatology, etc. but when it comes to what we need to feed on daily, what we hear from the pulpit and what we believe, we must take responsibility. Much as it might offend your sensibilities, mark this:
Any pastor/teacher/boy/girl/spiritual authority that does not encourage you to check against Scripture and form your opinion is trying to take the place of God. Anyone who makes his/her word the final word above God’s spirit’s ministering to you and clarifying to you is not following in the way of the master or of the apostles; mark them. God’s spirit is not afraid of the questions or doubts you might have and He will clarify things to you!
Read the Gospel and you will see how often it was that Jesus answered questions. In Hebrews 11:6, the writer says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” The Greek for “seek” literally means investigation – ask questions, raise doubts, seek clarifications, reflect on the evidence, form an opinion, revise it with new evidence, etc. I am sorry but any pastor who says otherwise is not following the example of our Lord; I choose to follow our Saviour because His example is flawless. But why are we so scared to question, to seek and to discover?
Two things come to mind. The first is simple: laziness. We are simply not committed enough to God. We are so distracted by the cares of the world that spending time in the Scriptures is seen as a secondary activity rather than a primary activity. Would that we would shake it off and get our hands on deck. The second one has to do with what I believe in a traditionally African setting is culture and well tradition and possibly experience.
Theologian John Macquarrie suggests that there are six factors that come into play in forming one’s theology or theological view point. These are experience, revelation, Scripture, culture, reason and tradition. I think however that when it comes to reflection on our faith, especially in a Ghanaian setting we find that the tradition of the pastor or spiritual authority has caused us to ascribe the power of interpretation to the collar. It is here that George Barna and Frank Viola are right that a lot of Church practises/traditions are more pragmatic than they are Scriptural. (I will write on these six factors in another article).
Coming back to the Scriptures which should be our over-arching guide, it is apparent that the Christian faith involves reflection and the use of the mind. Much as the “charismaniacs” (to borrow from Bishop Twumasi) want us to believe it is all about “dunamis,” “exousia,” other tongues and “lambano,” God calls us to love Him with our minds as well. If truth has failed to stand in the Church, it is because you and I have not committed to the Word so that only a certain quality of word will come from our pulpits.
Imagine with me that you are going to speak to doctors on medicine; you would prepare knowing you couldn’t just lie to them. If we are committed to the word, we will challenge our leaders and ourselves to delve deeper to seek God and seek His face in the pages of the Scriptures. Paul warned Timothy in 1 Tim 4 and he crowned it by saying “watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim 4:16)
The ball is now in your court. Will you continue to play receiver hoping that your minister will download from God and then into you? Or will you take up God’s challenge to “investigate Him?” Will you test everything and ask God to show you that which is good so you throw away the rest? Will you recognize that we are in the last days where the war is in doctrine and ideas? Will you study for yourself and allow the word to sanctify your mind so you are not swept away?
God is not afraid of your questions. There is only one person on whom we must rely: the Spirit. God has promised that He and not a prophet, pastor or teacher will lead us into all truth. (They may be agents of His truth though.) He has asked us to seek Him while He may be found. May He strengthen you to discover His truth that will make you free – but first become committed and start by checking this article against the Scriptures. Selah.
08 Mar. 13
Staring across the Volta
This could well be Malta
In hand, Guinness called Malta
Can I have another Fanta?
Away from the city
Nature bubbles with vivacity
Birds, ants, fish and a beehive
Nature is strongly alive.
Peering over the mountainous ridge
It isn’t the towers at Ridge
Arrived o’er the Adomi Bridge
Elated, as a soaring partridge.
It is a foggy dawn
Lovers are sure to fawn
Birds chirping away
A wonder, nature’s melee.
The Volta is still,
The weather has a chill
The day is about to unpeal
Natures’s delight I can feel.
In nature’s bosom,
Warm as a mother’s touch,
A lover’s hug, a father’s hand
I see nature full and free.
Jan 20, 2013
The Aesop Fable about the lad who cried wolf much to the chagrin of the townsmen is probably the most popular of all Aesop fables. The young man whose job was to tend the sheep had been told to sound an alarm when the wolves did appear so that help would come his way in driving them away and thus keep the sheep safe: simple instruction, simple job.
For whatever reason that suited his fancy, the young man derived some sarcastic pleasure from crying “wolf, wolf” when in fact there was no imminent danger. This joke was done one too many times that his cries of “wolf, wolf” were taken with ever-increasing lightness until when unfortunate day when the wolves finally came-by which time no one took his cries seriously. As the story goes, the sheep were devoured by the wolves much to the ire of the townspeople. There are some lessons we can glean from this fable.
First, the danger of the wolves was a certainty. Whether from previous experience or knowledge of the terrain, the townspeople knew that wolves were a risk. Somehow they realized the inability of the boy to ward off the wolves alone and thus pledged their support.
Secondly, the boy’s trifling with the danger did not diminish the reality of it and rather drifted attention away from it. When the danger came to light, it had been so trifled that people just couldn’t and wouldn’t take it serious any longer.
Matthew writes: “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42)
Whether it is the Mayan controversy of Dec 21, 2012 or the May 25 one or any other prediction, a smaller group of people are “crying wolf” about Christ’s return-a phenomenon which is dulling our senses and numbing us to the reality: Christ will return. You see, the Aesop fable corroborates one vital point:
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”(Matthew 24:36)
That the wolves would come was a certainty. The only thing was that no one knew exactly when. That Christ would come is in a similar vein a certainty but the “when” is the problem. It is just refreshing to know that Jesus has categorically said that no one knows. Should we thus turn a deaf ear to all those who purport to know? Possibly no!
First, we should not be side-tracked by their cries of wolf. In fact they only confirm the fact that no man (nor angel knows). We should rather be reminded that though every false alarm attempts to diminish the reality of the danger or the potency of the message, it only underscores that the danger is imminent. I believe the Christmas story lends credence to this claim.
Writes Isaiah, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
The Christmas story is essentially about this child that is yet to be born; one whose birth and future exploits are foretold hundred of years of years prior. In a sense, the whole of the Old Testament, particularly the prophets, is a testimony to Christ’s soon-coming birth. The question is how soon is this soon? One could say that the prophets were “crying wolf” and yet what they were “making noise” about didn’t happen, at least not in their life times.
My mind is doubtless drawn to Genesis 6-7; the account in which Noah was charged by God to build an ark because of the impending flood. We have an indication that the people had not seen rain before. It was ludicrous to hear this “mad man” rant on and on about rain and impending danger. In a shorter time span, what he foretold and warned about came to pass in vivid colour and the warnings were justified.
And so this is how Christmas corroborates Christ’s return: the story was told several centuries before the birth of Christ. Over many generations there was doubtless a disbelief in this truth of virgin birth. And yet, time vindicated the prophecy and the virgin was with child and the Saviour was born. Hallelujah!!
By extension, Jesus has Himself spoken about His second return (Acts 1). Many New Testament “prophets” have also attested to the second return of Christ in a manner akin to that of the Old Testament prophets. Once again, words have been spoken and centuries, even millenia have passed and we are inclined to disbelief the claim. If however the Christmas story came into being, we can by extension trust that He whose birth was spoken of will certainly return as it is has been proclaimed (“in like manner.”)
We unfortunately cannot prevent people from crying wolf. We can however be poised to keep our minds renewed and constantly reminded of the fact that His return is sure. Leave the prophets and speculators to their work but remember no man knows.
As we celebrate Christ’s birth this season and beyond, let us remember that it is the sign that He whose birth was foretold will return. Celebrate the season in the knowledge that He will come again. Hear Luke:
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”- Acts 1:11
Songwriter Elder Mmireku asks “Wo gyina bia w)he” (Where do you stand?) You can trample this underfoot or dismiss it as religious garble or you can embrace the reality and continue to live knowing that the event will happen, perhaps in your life time or not; that choice is yours but it does not change the truth: Christ will return.
May the yearly celebration of Christmas remind us that it is not only His birth that has been foretold but His return and may we be strengthened to renew our commitment to be ready knowing that we know not the day, the hour or the time. Selah
Joyeux Noel!! Merry Christmas!! Afrenhyia pa o!
Dangerous metals laying bare,
Owners not giving a care,
Your flesh unwilling to spare,
Take note, better beware.
Driving, not giving a care,
He’s the one one you best not dare,
To whom do you channel your care?
Your only prayer: get me there!
Moving speedily as a hare,
His target the speed of a flare,
You whimper: take care,
Afraid, his ire to incur.
Trudging the dusty road
The pilot, you want to goad
Your speed can you pare
This haste I cannot bear.
Alas, “bus stop, bus stop” is your cry
The others you bid goodbye
Your journey’s done: happy and high
The thrills of a trotro ride.
It is December 8th, 2012 in Accra, Ghana and the nation is on tenterhooks. Only yesterday the nation went to the polls and we are on edge waiting for the electoral commission to declare the official results. While we await the official announcements, political pundits from each divide are busily speculating that by the close margins we are seeing their side will win. Twitter, Facebook and many blogs are alive with traffic – traffic from people trying to catch the results as they are released for each completed constituency.
On Facebook, one political pundit decreed that “the voice of the people is the voice of God. It is done.” I am hoping his party wins because two days ago, another political zealot of the other side also declared thusly: “God has already approved of you; the battle is the Lord’s.” These two assertions got me thinking. Which of these two, if they are to win is a reflection of God’s will and is it really true that the voice of the people is the voice of God? The other question it triggered in my mind was, are the masses always right?
Soren Kierkegard once commented that, “the lesson we learn from history is that we never learn from history.” Nothing could be truer of this election and what we perceive as God’s chosen and elected political leader. The last time the NPP was in power, Ghanaians were certain that NDC had been given enough time to deliver on their promises and were encouraged to change which we did. Further down the road, NDC also preached the gospel of change and by a close margin wrested power from the NPP-the term for which they are presently seeking re-election.
Between President Rawlings’ NDC, President J.A. Kufour’s NPP, President Mills/Mahama’s NDC, the story is the same: we get fed up (usually after 8 years) and then boot one party out in the hope that the next will somehow miraculously solve all the problem the other party has failed to solve and yet we remain largely unchanged. Did these who had declared themselves chosen of God not deliver or the will of the people not clearly reflect the will of God? Those are not simple questions to answer.
An ancient story recorded in Exodus 32 gives me a heuristic key with which I hope to make an argument for the absolute. Moses, the chosen leader of the people in transit was away communing with God on the mountain and the people feeling that he had delayed looked to Aaron and in fact instructed him to make “gods that will go before them.” There seems almost no hesitation in Aaron’s response as he collected what gold items he could and fashioned the Golden Calf which the people began to zealously worship.
As one writer notes, we are born with an innate need to worship and when we choose not to worship God, we find something, some idea, some principle, some personality, some political ideology, some political party, etc. to worship, in a bid to fill the worship void. This Exodus 32 leads me to the first point/lesson:
Lesson 1: Not all leaders or their actions are sanctioned by God
Lesson 2: The will of the people is not always reflective of the will of God. The people can distract from God’s will and plan.
Moses was the chosen leader and God had not explicitly replaced him. There was a void and the people eager and of their own accord chose Aaron and his consequent actions displeased God. Democracy, while a clearly positive approach to governance is probably not the best approach yet. The people chose Aaron when God had chosen Moses. The people chose the Golden Calf when God had chosen Himself for them as their God.
And so whereas we invest huge power in our thumbs and electoral choices, it becomes evident that God has one of His own choosing and our choices may coincide with His perfect will or He may use our choices to prove the authenticity of His ways. Politicians and thus leadership should be apt to learn that the masses will always push for things that may destroy them eventually.
As an example, in America and other developed nations, the subject of homosexuality is essential to almost any election. While the masses in the polls indicate they do not care or are accepting of it, these may not necessarily be what is best for the people, as they Golden calf wasn’t. We are apt to choose and worship what has a potential to ruin us. True leadership looks beyond what is presently expedient to what is eternally or generationally prudent. And so what is right to be done is an objective thing but the electorate can often not be trusted to side by a person who will speak the truth and declare the truth. Rather, we would go with the one who can “rap” us into voting for them, promising things we know are not really feasible.
According to philosophers, two opposing statements cannot be true. E.g. The font of this script is black. You cannot say the font of this text is white and get away with it (though some scholars would have us believe so). If two opposing statements cannot be true, then one of them must be true and the other false. If political leader A is chosen by God, then political leader B cannot also be chosen by God. It is this quandary we are presented with in our elections as each person makes an appeal to the divine as their caller. Thus, irrespective of what the masses say, the font of this script is black and the leader God has chosen is the one He’s chosen irrespective of who the masses vote.
That is pretty obvious but it is how this trickles down into morality and absolutes that absolutely fascinates me. It is important to understand that this article is silhouetted against an African worldview where the spiritual is active, alive and very much a part of everyday life.
If we find the argument that more than one political leader can be chosen by God for the same position as true, then we should be able to see the illogicality of proposing that any and every chosen path is equally right and acceptable. If Adwoa cannot be Yaa, or Yaa, Adwoa, then the case is settled. We have debated the absolute on many fronts – sexuality, identity, etc. However, it comes down to the simple truth that: one thing is right and the other wrong, no matter how many people say otherwise. We learn from history that the masses are not always right and often the quiet minority are on the path to right than everyone else. Why does all this matter?
Lesson 3: True politics cannot exist independent of a caller, a calling, integrity, a sense of community and God’s will.
Much as leadership involves ability, I believe personally that the story of the Golden Calf teaches one thing: calling precedes any true entry into leadership. Political ideology or bent is not the most important factor in moving a nation forward. A sense of calling and integrity to that calling and at all levels is cardinal to making progress in the true sense of it. Progress devoid of integrity is retrogression.
It is important that we as a people understand what we value. And those values should be seen lived in the lives of those we choose to lead us. When we think too much in terms of the present and the next meal on our table, we lose sight of the bigger picture.
It is here that I appeal once more to the rich Ghanaian and African cultural heritage. Most societies had values and mores which a prospective leader had to adhere to. Anyone who runs afoul of such mores and values was not material fit to lead or in the bigger context of things become an ancestor. These mores and values were hinged on the transcendent and provided an objective measure not based on our whims and caprices. Thus many though eligible would be eliminated based on character alone; character measured not by the eligible person’s words but an objective measure.
My thought is simple: Without a bigger context within which leadership has its purpose, it is just a random thing which should either not be attributed to God or taken seriously at all. When our politicians choose to attribute their calling to God, we must then ask ourselves whether or not their callings are indeed true.
I believe we can only best validate these claims when we are ourselves prayerful and reflective and discerning of God’s standard for leadership – whether at Church, in school, at work or the nation at large:
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.. – 1 Tim 3:2-5
If leadership will fulfil its true and highest purpose, we must once more cast the absolute standards in stone and demand a group of people who will be consistent with those values. I propose that these values that God through the Apostle Paul shares are absolutes that will be useful in our generation and time. Backed by the wisdom of God, we can begin to see change at every level when those truly called by God, consistent with His character take the reins of power and conduct themselves accordingly.
And so next time you hit that polling booth, seek God first, not a political Saviour and uphold the standards of His word and He will Himself lead us to a Moses who will take us to the promised land and even if the journey is long and tortuous He will fulfil His promise to take us to a land flowing with milk and honey. Selah.
Dec 8, 2012
The most popular mantra in Ghana’s 2012 Presidential and parliamentary election is “Free SHS.” One party has made it their main phrase for election while another has claimed they have been talking about the idea for years viz. it is nothing new. While the thought sounds exciting, I have some reservations (irrespective of the implementing political party).
Education has been touted as an important pillar in our progress as a nation. That is true to large extents. Education increases the odds of our ability to develop. For education to be helpful in charting progress, it should be more than just a large wholesale education of people but indeed education tailored to help us solve our present as well as our future needs. As one theologian notes of African Christianity, “we are being given answers to questions we have not asked.” This seems true of the kind of education we have.
It is on the issue of quality that I am particularly worried about Free SHS. There is a certain cloud around free that absolves us of responsibility as well as quality. It is not a bad idea to take tax money and provide free education but what value is it when we produce graduates who are barely literate. We need to step back and address fundamental problems of reading and writing pre-SHS to ensure that whoever enters the now-proposed free SHS stream has solid foundation. History has shown us that free at other levels has produced some appalling results.
Free SHS has implications no one is talking about: more expensive education and elitism. Many parents today do not want to take their children to public “free” schools for fear that the quality of education there will not be suitable in giving their children a competitive edge over others who go to the more prestigious schools. The ripple effect is that the demand for private schools increases and needless to say, the demand provides a perfect opportunity to charge more. With 3 children, I could be paying some $13,500 in fees alone for the school I would feel would provide my children the best experience.
The principal idea behind free SHS, in my opinion, is to bridge the gap between the educated and the illiterate so as to propel our development. What free SHS will however do is widen the chasm between the beneficiary of free SHS and the beneficiary of quality SHS. And this will consequently lead to a form of elitism; one in which only the wealthy can afford a certain guaranteed level and quality of education.
If history is anything to go by, we implement things without recourse to providing the needed inputs. I recall in 2007 when a particular political party was in power and ICT became a subject in SHS. During this time, I was a tutorial assistant in a University I shall leave unnamed and recall that a colleague had to go off to help his auntie in Suhum on select Fridays to teach ICT to the entire school. She had been tasked with teaching the course and she had no idea about the subject and no textbook or teaching aid to guide her. This is Suhum; can you imagine some deep village in some deep part of Ghana where they might even be studying under trees? I recall the joke in which a teacher so confidently called ICT, “Information Computer Technology!” Talk of the blind leading the blind.
And so whereas this school in Suhum was struggling, another in Accra, a private one in Accra would have a complete computer lab with a teacher dedicated to the teaching of ICTs. In order to have that quality of education, I would bend myself over to get my children over to those schools even if it hurts my payslip. That is the kind of elitism we are certain to devolve into if we do not tread cautiously.
Another challenge is that the traditional SHS is not designed to be a terminal stage. In other words, most SHS subject options assume further studies at a tertiary level. Today, about 1-10% of a student’s mates from primary school enter the University. For such fractional figures, our universities and tertiary institutions are horribly crowded and not well-suited to producing graduates to solve our problems. The teacher student-ratio is nothing to talk about. Are we certain we want to make things worse?
Imagine with me three to five years down the line and hopefully more graduates capable of entering the universities, polytechnics, etc. Do we have the space and resources to actually contain them? If we do, great; unfortunately we do not. What do we do with all these young people who feel entitled to enter tertiary institutions? What do you do with their multiplied frustrations which are a recipe for social unrest and vices? You can argue that they should go to the ever-increasing tertiary institutions but that raises a critical question: if their parents could not afford SHS, how are they going to afford the much more expensive private university?
I see three possible solutions. Either you abandon the whole idea or you refine the free SHS programme to be terminal in the sense of having employable skills or entrepreneurial skills at the end of the period. A third option is to ensure that the post-SHS infrastructure is expanded to be ready for the inflow from Free SHS. If none of these is done, I am afraid we might produce a truckload of SHS graduates who might not help accelerate our development as we initially imagined.
We undoubtedly cannot eliminate elitism but we can take deliberate steps to minimize it. While free SHS is a good idea, undertaking the venture for political expediency will prove unwise in the long run. A clear, non-partisan debate into our educational sector will be helpful in charting a nationally and mutually edifying educational system. Let us not rush into a mess.
For posterity sake, it is essential that we do our homework well and ensure that when free SHS is implemented it is sturdy. My proposal is to first tackle elementary education and firm it up – resources, books, and teacher’s remuneration. When that is firm, then we extend it to free-SHS. But even more importantly, we must adequately remunerate parents so they can provide quality education for their children because we realize that at some point parents must be their responsibility.
The quality of posterity hinges on the political decisions of the present. I pray our politicians (political party independent) will find it in their hearts and minds to choose not because of political expediency but for posterity. One sage said, anything worthwhile takes time to build. If free SHS is worth it, it won’t take a moment or year to build, it will take posterity to build it and if only we can put off politics and glory-seeking for once, we might collaborate across political parties and powers and different administrations to build a quality educational system which churns out agents of change, innovation and progress. On free SHS, Ghana must again win!
God bless our homeland, Ghana.
Dec 8, 2012