Is man good and occasionally does bad things? Or is man bad and occasionally does good things?
Many people in Kenya consider themselves the first kind and their political enemies the latter. “I am a good person,” they say to themselves. “I just happen to occasionally tweet or write bad Facebook updates. But even my so called bad tweets and updates are not so bad because they are simply promoting justice/peace at the end of the day.” They then say of their political counterparts, “They are bad, even evil. The good they have done is circumstantial and they are possibly using it for their own evil nature.”
Is man good and occasionally does bad things? Or is man bad and occasionally does good things?
The Gospel says neither. The Gospel says man is bad and even his good deeds are extensions of his fallen and depraved nature.
Kenya is not in a crisis because evil is defeating good. Kenya is in a crisis because fallen sinful men are fighting to one up with fellow fallen sinful men. Kenya must realise that even sinful hearts can call for good circumstances, just like cold blooded killers can love their children. But loving your children does not sanitise your wicked heart. And if you think it shows that some humanity is left it in you, be sure that the Gospel says it is selfish and fallen humanity. Humanity that thinks itself good and its enemies bad while conveniently excusing its own dark deeds is the first sign of a proud heart in danger of eternal damnation.
Beloved, fallen hearts can call for reforms. Fallen hearts can call for peaceful elections. Fallen hearts can call for a smooth transition of leadership. Fallen hearts can call for prayers. Fallen hearts can call for peaceful demonstrations. But remember, they are still fallen and sinful hearts. Take 50 Kenyans from the same tribe, speaking the same language, with the same height, weight etc and leave them together for a few days. When you come back you will find them divided on some sort of line. Perhaps an economic division or an intellectual division or even a clan division- tribalism within tribes. The lack of peace and justice is not a political or tribal issue. It’s a fallen, sinful issue. The clarion calls for peace and justice do not purify our sinful hearts. They only give us a platform to call for something good while often using sinful means. Catch a Kenyan tweet or update using caustic, painfully sarcastic or passive-aggressive language and the user defends themselves that they are simply pushing for peace, justice or any other virtue they have adopted to sanitise their sinful heart.
Should we promote peace and justice? By all means! We should! But we must not fool ourselves that the lack of peace and justice is the main agenda of the Kenyan soul. Peace and Justice are good. I remember craving peace and justice when I was an IDP in the 2007-2008 violence. You can read the story here. I remember having had to literally run for my life with my father and sister. And while peace and justice are good for order and fairness, we would be shocked that after we got them our hearts still hate the other tribe. The hate in your heart is not a political problem as your leaders have told you. It is a sinful problem, and the judge of all the earth shall settle accounts with each of us soon. God wants peace and justice for us but he desires the salvation from our sins. God is so concerned about the state of our hearts that he points out that he will settle accounts for every careless word we speak in such seasons.
“I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV)
Beloved, promoting a good cause while having an unattended sinful heart will always make you believe you are better than those who disagree with your political rhetoric. The Gospel prevents this. The Gospel tells you that you are fallen to the point of eternal hell damnation and none of your good deeds like calling for peace and justice will save you. The Gospel humbles you to never look down on anyone because only God is seated that high. But the Gospel also says that you are forgiven by Christ if you repent and turn to Him. And this affirms you and gives you a boldness that your heart is now clean; but it keeps you humble because it is not your heart that is truly clean. What you have is a borrowed heart from the sinless man of the cross. He took your sinful heart and bore its price- the cross. He gave you his sinless heart and clothed you with grace. And only with this latter heart can you pursue peace and justice while loving your neighbour regardless of their tribe or political affiliation. Only with this latter heart can you stop making hopeless prayers to God based on your sinful prejudices. This is the Gospel. And the Gospel must marry peace and justice for it to change people and not just change policies.
Everybody with a Twitter handle and a Facebook account may justify their sinful heart by the good cause they promote but God will settle accounts by the yardstick of the Lamb of God. If you are going to pray for this nation, say a personal prayer of repentance for considering your heart good and your neighbour’s evil. Perhaps the Gospel may make sense. And if it doesn’t, you may win your political argument but you may just have lost your soul.
“…He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)
But what about Jesus? Did Jesus address politics? And If Jesus was with us today, what would he do? Jesus did address political issues. But we would be surprised that he did not address them the way we do. He always linked his political messages to the Kingdom of God. In Luke 13 he talks of a political genocide where certain Jews were killed. And as he condemns the killing, he challenges his hearers by inquiring whether they would end up in heaven or hell if they too died? He spoke of the political injustices but pointed his listeners to the Kingdom of God. In the same chapter he confronts Herod’s political threat with boldness but ends the confrontation with a personal message of the Kingdom of God. Jesus had political supporters among his disciples. Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector. These people belonged to two different political and social divides. The former supporting the Jew’s independence and the latter the Roman colonisation. They possibly even hated one another. They were almost the equivalent of a Jubilee and NASA supporter. Yet when Jesus called them in, he wanted them to see the real two divides- not Jubilee or NASA but heaven and hell. They may support different parties but from Jesus’ angle they both belonged to one side of the divide. While each side is solely concerned about being on the right side of history, Jesus requires more; he requires us to also be on the right side of eternity. Simon the Zealot and Matthew the Tax Collector saw the main problem of their society to be political, Jesus saw it deeper. He saw it as a sinful problem of the heart. And he proves it by bringing them to be among his 12 disciples and teaching them to love one another. Politics was a flavour in Jesus’ talks but we must see that his main message was the sinful human heart; the personal corruption of man. If he got the common mwananchi to repent of his sin and turn to God, the political temperature would change.
You may be surprised that many people in the world would actually be dissatisfied with how he dealt with the huge political crises in his time. At Jesus’ time the biggest political injustices were slavery by the Romans and cruel execution of criminals. Yet Jesus told his followers to love their slave drivers and to carry their own crosses. He was eventually arrested. But for what reason? For propagating a political angle that neither the Jubilee or NASA of his time liked. He claimed to possess equality with God and claimed to have the power to forgive sins. These were the big hooks that got him in trouble. However, the leaders at the time conveniently used the politics of the time to corner him. When he said give to God what belongs to God and to Caesar what is Caesar’s, the Jubilee supporters of his time used a political angle to say that he was against Roman Rule. When he spoke of his resurrection after three days of the destruction of his temple (his body), the NASA supporters of his time accused him of trying to destroy the temple in Jerusalem. Neither political divide liked Jesus. Why? Because his message made you look at your heart as the problem and not the political divide as the problem?
Jesus’ main message to the public was personal and both political divides hated him because each were at fault. If you just read all the Gospels you see 11 out of the 39 parables had to do with the love for money and how it draws the individual away from God. The majority of his beatitudes had to do with personal devotion to God and loving your neighbour. If you read his preaching in the gospels, they had two main themes: the Kingdom of God and the fires of Hell. No person in scripture has talked more about hell, heaven and money more than Jesus. Jesus died like a common criminal yet his message is the most potent in the world today. He started from the bottom up. Not the top to the bottom. If Jesus was in Kenya today, we shouldn’t think that Jubilee or NASA would like him. At his death both the equivalents of Jubilee and NASA in Israel were asking for his death. To answer the question: If Jesus was with us today, what would he do? He would show us the foolishness of our hope in man-made Jubilee and NASA, the importance of the Kingdom of God, the need to repent and we would crucify him all over again for it.
The perspective of Kenyans politics should not be to look either right or left to either NASA or Jubilee but rather to look up, to God. The temptation of many people today is to speak for God and to put him on their side and make their political opponents look like God’s opponent- the devil. While some make false prophecies for their candidate, others misquote scripture and insert their candidate. This speaks clearly that people do not want God’s side; they want God to take their side. The truth is, Beloved, God’s sovereignty is not changed by human politics. Allow me to share two examples.
In Isaiah chapter 6, we learn from the prophet that something happened in the year that King Uzziah died. If you know anything about King Uzziah you realise that he was a great King. He made many military, agricultural and scientific strides for Israel and had lots of success (2 Chronicles 26). When he died, you can imagine how terrible some people must have felt. Their political candidate had lost. Yet Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 6:1 that when Uzziah died, God was seated on the throne, exalted in majesty. God’s majesty and exaltation are not dependent on who sits on an earthly throne.
In the second example, Joshua was conquering Canaan and was about to take down Jericho. He had his army ready and they had theirs ready. The commander of the LORD’s army in heaven appeared to Joshua with a drawn sword in his hand. In Joshua 5:13, the son of Nun asked, “Are you for us or against us?” The commander replied, “Neither.” God is not a ballot box voter.
Does that mean God doesn’t care? No, Beloved. He does care about justice, about peace and about love. But he reminds us that simply because we care about what he cares for does not mean he owes us anything. If anything, we humans only tend to care about those things when they hurt us. God wants us to care about those virtues not because they favour us but simply because they are righteous things to care about. We must be aware that God is not a Kenyan voter who must choose a side. We must also realise that there can only be one president. And him winning does not mean that God chose a side. It simply means that the particular candidate won, period. In all of human history, we can name examples where God has allowed his enemies to seat on earthly thrones and he has allowed his children to be the losers. Hitler and Corrie Ten Boom, Caesar Nero and Paul, Pharaoh and Moses. Beloved, the presidency is not the litmus test of God’s favour.
While our human minds are limited to a dichotomy of us versus them, God’s sits on his throne. He is the King over politics. And when he returns to set his kingdom on the earth, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that he is the King over all politics. The King over politics declares that there’s only him. Before Uhuru and Raila there was only him. Right now, it is still him. And even after Uhuru and Raila, there will always be him, Beloved. If either Uhuru or Raila is president at the end of it all means nothing if their souls are not saved. Even worse, if you, a NASA or Jubilee supporter are a spiritual enemy of God but have your candidate win. What will it gain for a Kenyan to win an election but lose their soul? The presidency may be a lofty position but we must remember that even when a bird is seated on an anthill, it is still seated on the ground.
Jeremiah 17:5 “This is what the Lord says: The man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord is cursed.” (HCSB)