To bribe or not to bribe?

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This weekend, I was faced with the hard decision of bribing a police officer or paying a hefty fine that would require surgical removal of my kidneys for auction. I seem to have a high affinity towards police officers. Last year, I missed my Spanish DELE exam because the matatu I was in was stopped by traffic officers. I was arraigned in court because the rickety van had no seat belts and missed an exam that is as infrequent as hair on a baby’s chin. This year my interaction with the police has revolved around my driving. I’m a good driver (at least I like to believe so) but somehow the boys in blue seem to smell me from a mile far. There were hundreds of cars on the road in all times but somehow they chose to stop me. Maybe I should tone down the colour of Raul (our car) to a subtler one that will blend in with the masses. Raul has gold coloured rims and a silver body. The contrast is magnificent.

However this wasn’t the case.

It was dark, you see. There was no chance of spotting Raul’s contrast. I saw the white beam of the torch dance in the Ngong’ road darkness beckoning me to come to a halt. My wife was seated on the co-driver’s side. Brad, Ken and Vivian, our lovely friends were in the back with unfastened seatbelts. We had come from folding origami in preparation for the Art and Beer Fest display. The cop beckoned to lower the co-driver’s window. I obeyed gratefully. He checked my wife’s seat and checked mine too. He checked the rear and sighted the anomaly. No buckled straps in the back was a no-no!

“Why haven’t these ones in the back buckled up,” he asked in Kiswahili.

Our silence proved our culpability. “I’m going to need to see your driving license,” he said. I produced it. Valid. Police 1. Raul 1.

“Step out and open the boot,” he said. I did. He hardly inspected the boot. “Close it,” he said. It was a decoy to lure me to the back. The stage was set and I walked right into it.

“Where’s today’s tea?” He asked is Kiswahili. He was asking for a bribe. The conversation proceeded in Kiswahili.

“I’m sorry I can’t do that,” I responded.

“Well then I guess you have an offense committed.”

I was cognizant of the new traffic rules. The financial damage would probably come to a hundred thousand. I didn’t have that kind of money at my disposal. I was tempted to bribe him and settle it but my conscience wasn’t seared.

“Sir, I only have a few coins with me. I was dropping my friends to town. Even if I carried any money with me…”

“Then ask your friends in the car to contribute and we’ll forget this whole mess.”

“I can’t ask them that sir,” I responded, hoping he wouldn’t confuse my conviction’s stance with arrogance. He was beginning to get unnerved by my responses. Why wasn’t I playing along? I prayed in my heart. Lord give me the words to speak.

“And why is that?”

“I’m a Christian sir.”

The man chuckled. He had heard that excuse before. He wasn’t going to buy it.

“Listen, everyone is a Christian.”

“No, I’m a practising Christian.”

“And what does that mean?”

“That I can’t ask my friends for money to bribe you. It will kill my testimony before them. If I must pay for the offense, so be it.”

I thought I was crazy to be saying what was coming from my mouth. I imagined being taken to a police cell for the night. I was angry at myself for a moment for doing the right thing but I was at peace.

“Where do you go to church?”

“CITAM Valley Road,” I responded, “Not far from here.” I decided to do a little asking too. “What about you?”

“I’m Catholic.  I go to the Holy Family Basilica in the CBD.” However at times, I attend the Catholic monastery not far from here. So are you paying up or not?”

I thought the church conversation would break his stance. This was it, I said to myself. You’re going to either bribe him or face the ramifications.

“I can’t do that sir. I will offend Jesus Christ in doing so.”

He laughed lightly. He was going to enjoy tackling this one.

“Young man. Everyone has sinned. We are all full of flaws. Refusing to pay a bribe will not make you cleaner.”

“That’s true. But it will honour Jesus at this moment.”

“We Africans are religious but we have a very long way to get to God. There is no point in trying. We are all unclean aren’t we?”

“Yes, that’s true,” I responded, “all humanity is unclean and that’s why we need Jesus. He takes our dirt. Even the best of us is terrible. Isaiah 64:6 says all our righteous deeds are but filthy rags before God.”

When I quoted the verse he took a keen interest. He softened his pose and countered the argument.

“If we are all filthy, then paying a bribe will not change anything.”

“It will. It will change my conviction. It will change my stance on right and wrong and it will dishonour God. I have been forgiven for my sins. I can’t continue to sin intentionally expecting God’s forgiveness. That is abusing The Almighty. I’m sorry but I can’t bribe you sir.”

“That’s the way this country is young man.”

“Then you and I must change this country. Bribing…”

“Enough with the bribing,” he interrupted. “I’m talking about all kinds of evil. Why are you always referring to the bribe?”

“Because I believe that is the predicament that stands between you and me here on this highway.”

He went silent. He moved his rifle from under his arm and spread it across his torso. Then he spoke, not as a police officer, but as a fellow human being.

“Listen, life is hard. I stand here in the cold on this highway trying to do my job and earn a fair wage while our leaders steal millions. How do I make up for that?”

I paused at what he said. Ken, who was seated at the back stepped out of the car. I beckoned him to return. He listened. I thought hard on what he said and when I believed I knew what to tell him, I responded.

“I honestly don’t know. But I know this; our political leaders did not start by stealing millions. They began by offering small bribes. If someone like me ever got there, I need to be different and I will have to start now officer. I can’t offer you a bribe.”

He handed me back my license.

“I hear what you’re saying but we Africans have a long way to go. Go on, be on your way and drive safely.”

I rejoiced silently within me and it exuded in a smile.

“Hey, listen,” I told him, “I’m glad we talked and I feel we need to talk some more. You have many questions and I feel I may have some answers especially concerning God.” I gave him my card.

“Please call me,” I said, “coffee next week and it’s on me.”

“I see you’re an artist and a writer.”

“Yes I am.”

“Have a good night young man.”

“Good night to you sir!”

With this, I returned to the car to find a concerned wife and three sombre faces in the back buckled to the seat. I shared with them the story as I prayed in my heart that the man would give me a call the following week. Who knows? A coffee date may just encourage a discouraged member of the Police force.

 

Comments

Ernest Wamboye is a disciple of Jesus Christ, a husband, a father, an author and a speaker. He has been married to the lovely Waturi since September 2012. They have a passion for youth ministry. Together they minister to young adults on the gospel and pre-marital relationships. Ernest has authored two books, The Human Temple, a novel, and Lust and the City- a guide on sexual purity.

Discussion26 Comments

  1. Amen!!! We need this kind of testimony. God says if we deny Him, He will deny us.. If we stand up for Him, He will stand up for us. Christians especially young Christians need to trust God enough that He will provide a way for them in the most difficult of circumstances. God help us and bless you Ernest for standing up for what you believe in. 🙂

  2. Ernest! God bless you! You are indeed a vessel! I've been waiting to see what a Christian would do in the scenario you've just given. I've asked very many that question but today through your testimony I have got an answer…
    And just to add to what LIGHT has said about God rejecting us when we reject Him…our God is a God of grace. He loved us before we even loved Him. We love because He first loved us (I Jn 4:19). Romans 8:19 also reminds us "But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."~ While we were still rejecting Christ, He loved us and died for us. He embraced us when we were hurling insults at Him, spitting at Him, pulling out His beard and beating Him. At that point of us rejecting Him, He did not do a tit for tat but rather, He embraced us.
    Mercy triumphs over judgement(James 2:13)
    Grace abounds.

  3. Now this is Christianity! Getting real with people and telling them that you can't do stuff that are contrary to your faith. Imagine even if you bribed probably apart from you, God and Satan no one else could have known. It was safer that way but you took the risk to share your faith. Ernest, I'm gonna pray with you and whenever that cops shows up to a coffee date as you asked him to do, he will get saved In Jesus name.

    • Amen Kingsley! At times we are afraid to do the right thing because we think God will not bail us out. However doing the right thing always proves that even when we make a mistake, God is by our side. We should trust him with ALL our heart and depend not on our own understanding of how things work/ will work out

  4. U know…I have been asking myself what I would do in such a situation. I have always hoped that I would have the strength to say NO…Thank you for your inspiration and motivation to do the right thing,regardless of the possible repurcussions… God bless you!!

  5. the badge has never made them deity,or the the gun beast beyond the grace and mercy of God,as the roman centruion carried his duty dilligently at the cross,seeing the sky blackened,n earthquake happening,the back of Jesus opened wide with the beatings,hanging naked at the cross,the man was broken n he confessed,surely this man was truly the SON OF God,lets walk the talk,wats the worst that can happen,by going the 2mile when they want 1mile?

  6. @Ernest your stand on bribing is a strong one and i would like you to continue with the same n encourage more people to change that perception. a bribe today will not keep you away from taking or offering one tomorrow but refusing to give or part with one brings change to a society that is almost submerged in the act. GOD Bless you

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