Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Handling Generational Differences

I once walked into a public place on a hot and sunny day, carrying my Tendai (4 months). He is rocking a T. shirt and shorts, no hat, no socks and no jersey! The moment I enter the room, I can see and feel the stares from the elderly mothers! I know what they are thinking and what's coming, so I put on my serious "don't talk to me" face. But it's all in vain since when was a motherly African woman dissuaded by a mere look? So in a manner typical of our mothers, one of them walks over to me and loads me with a series of questions, where is the mother? Why did not you put socks and a hat on him? And where is his little blanket (covering)? Thankfully, she caught me on one of my spiritual days! So I engaged her about the heat and how irritable kids get when they are hot and sweaty. And she closes it off with, what a lovely baby? Boy or girl? What's his name? How old is he? Please keep these little ones warm. "It's good you are spending time with the baby; please keep it up." Funnily, I walked away smiling and with a sense of appreciation for my culture once more. Why would a stranger walk up to me and question my parenting decisions? Simple, in Africa, we believe "it takes the whole  village to raise a child." And in our culture, the older generation must instruct and guide the younger generation in the various ways of life. It is both a duty and an obligation. As always, there are valuable lessons to remember for the sake of harmony.

1. You cannot explain African culture apart from communal living. It affects & influences everything we do and believe. We do life together, and one of our famous sayings is "it takes the whole  village to raise a child."

2. The young generation must learn humbly and heed the counsel from the older generation. We may disagree, and we may have google and "baby centre." But they have the experience; you are a testimony of their parenting abilities. As much as they are some progressive ways of doing things, we must appreciate that those who have gone before us can teach us a lot.

3. The older generation must be gracious, humble and tactful in their imparting of knowledge. For good or bad, our generation is becoming more progressive, innovative and individualistic by the year and have bought into the illusion of self-sufficiency. That said, you cannot impose advice just because that's how you did things. Further, the older generation must equally learn what they can from the younger generation.

4. We must be tolerant and not impose our thoughts on every situation. It's okay for one child to be wrapped up in 4 or 5 layers of clothes and another child to be wrapped up in 2. Remember, each of those parents loves their children and are not entirely ignorant. Respect, grace and kindness must inform our interactions.

5. Christians need to remember the exhortation of the older teaching, the younger in the local church context and ongoing discipleship relationships. Let's not avoid these relationships despite the craziness of the culture. We must instead pursue relationships that are informed by scripture and motivated by love. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Prophets, Pastors, Politics and Predictions

The emotional dust and tensions from the August 12 Zambian elections are settling. The euphoria is steadily giving way to the backlash. The people who felt oppressed and victimized are calling for vengeance. The grieved over corruption are demanding for justice to prevail. And those who made false declarations and predictions are coming under fire. That brings me to the “prophets” and “pastors” who made declarations and predictions purporting their utterances were of divine origin. As providence would have it, the declarations made with pomp and pride were flat out wrong. And the “men of god” have eaten humble pie. It may be easy for us to find joyful satisfaction in the public and overdue humiliation of these people. However, a closer examination suggests that their actions are a problem for the Christian faith and the Church of Christ. One growing trend post-election is a general mockery and questioning of the relevancy of Christianity. The prophets and pastors are synonyms with Christianity, and that is a problem and here is why. 

They are making a mockery of the Word of God

The God of the Bible is self-revealing. He has from the beginning revealed himself to his creation. In times past, he spoke through prophets and in various ways. It is, therefore, common to find the prophets of the scriptures declaring, “Thus says the Lord.” The scriptures tell us that now, the Lord has spoken through Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-3). Hence the many exhortations to know the Word of God and obey it (1 Jn 2:3, Jn 14:15, Jas 1:22). This is because the scriptures are sufficient and sure Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Pet 1:19-21). The current crop of prophets who conjure up dreams about the outcome of football matches and elections and attribute them to God is a mockery. The reason the Lord reveals himself to his people is to communicate his nature and redemptive purposes. When the prophets of God spoke, it was solemn and sober. The word calls people to know God, worship him, and it warns people of the dangers of disregarding the Word, ways and will of God. It is a mockery to merely reduce God’s word to predicting the deaths of public figures, the outcome of football matches and winners of elections.

They are making a mockery of Christianity

As people listen to utterances of the prophets that are ridiculous and outrageous, they equate it to the Christian message. Sadly, that is the image they have created of Christianity. They are left wondering, “what is wrong with this bunch”. One political and humanist activist recently wrote in part, on her social media platform, “religion makes it near impossible to have rational and especially difficult conversations in Zambia…” Loud, pompous and colourfully dressed papas are tarnishing the name of the Christian faith. Especially when they are the only voice people hear.

They are misleading the masses.

It is painful to see the people who flock to these prophets and drink in their utterances regularly. Hundreds and at times thousands follow them on social media and tune in to listen to their talks or rants. These live broadcasts range from name-calling, slandering,self-declaration of their powers to mind-boggling laughter. I once stumbled upon one man of God who was offering to fix phones and electrical appliances during a live-streamed gathering! And all the people affirmed his call with praise. Worse still, people send their kwachas to men like these. Sincere in their efforts but extremely lost and misled.

We cannot keep silent.

False prophets who are proud, sensual and greedy for money will always be there (2 Pet 2). But we cannot allow them to be the only voices people hear. We cannot keep silent while they misrepresent our God and his Word. We cannot afford to let them misrepresent the Christian faith. We must give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet 3:15). We must earnestly, graciously and boldly make a case of a rational and reasonable Christian message, without which life cannot make sense. We must not cast a blind eye on or laugh off these utterances. No matter how enticing they might be, we must call them for what they really are, false!

Monday, August 30, 2021

YOU HAVE CHANGED!

 "YOU HAVE CHANGED!" This is what people will often say with an accusatory tone—implying that you are not the person you used to be. There is something about your character, standards or actions that have changed. It could also mean that your priorities may have changed over the years. When any of this takes place in your life, some people around you will sadly take offence. Hence, the accusatory statement “you have changed.” So, is change necessary? Should people have the same character and priorities throughout their lives, or must we expect change? Granted, there is a change in attitude that thinks you are better than others by virtue of your status & that makes you unapproachable. That is pride! However, I would like to propose reasons why change is necessary for life.

1. Growing up calls and demands for change, and it comes with added and different responsibilities. We surely do not expect a 30-year-old to behave the same as when he was 20 years. The only people who refuse to change as they advance in years are those who refuse to grow up.

 2. Marriage is, by nature, a change of lifestyle and commitment. Priorities, commitments and sometimes friends change. One of the sources of conflict in marriage is the refusal to adjust lifestyles. When married people want to continue living as they did when they were single, they fail to appreciate their new life and responsibilities. You cannot hang out with the guys till kingdom come anymore as a married man. Marriage changes your budgeting, your programming and your character.

3. Parenting DEMANDS for change. And all the parents shout AMEN! You have more and greater work at home that requires your presence and attention. The way you do things will change, and your budgeting will definitely change. You do not float with your friends as and when you please. Before you have kids, you can just wake up and take a trip; you can decide to visit someone or eat out, invite friends, have game night into the early hours of the next day, etc. Oh, but when the little bundles of joy start coming, you have to be more structured and be more planning will go into each of those activities.

4. Christianity is a call to change. Before salvation, you lived in sin and pleased yourself (Eph. 2:1-3). When God graciously saves you, you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17-21), and you are called to live a different life for a different master. It is deception to claim you have been saved and transformed from your sinful life and yet, remain the same. Your commitment to God and God's people radically change.

Change is necessary. Progress, growth and maturity require and demand change. We must constantly evaluate and examine our character, actions, and priorities to make the necessary changes. Change is a good thing and should be expected such that the real question becomes, "WHY HAVEN'T YOU CHANGED?"

 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Navigating Cross-Cultural Relationships


The world is becoming smaller. It is becoming increasingly common that, wherever you live, you will find yourself relating with someone from another culture. This is true in workplaces, neighbourhoods and churches. When confronted with a different culture, there are three common reactions. There are those whose coping mechanism is to "avoid" and "isolate." They will only pursue friendships with their kind. They will have their own social hangouts, build their own living compounds and even do their own church. The second reaction is to attack the culture they do not understand because it is different. They will mock, misrepresent and even demonise the other culture's norms and practices; usually, this is done from ignorance. These reactions are driven by selfishness, pride and a stubborn refusal to learn from others. For the Christian, it is a failure to understand and apply the gospel. The third reaction to cultural diversity is embracing the challenges and the blessings that come with such relationships. It is a humble, gospel mindset to love, teach and learn from fellow believers. It is an attitude that pursues unity in humility while maintaining individuality. Allow me to illustrate this and then draw some concluding implications.

A Zambian mother decided to wrap her crying baby on her back. She instinctively picked the kid up and, in one motion, "threw" her on her back while picking a chitenge (Zambian material used to wrap a baby on the mother's back). A western woman, a mother herself, saw that and she was concerned for the baby's safety on her mother's back while the mother picked up the wrapper. Instinctively, she runs over to hold the baby from 'falling'. By the time she got there, the Zambian lady had wrapped up the baby and picked up her bag, ready to get on with business.

Was the Zambian woman careless with her baby? Not at all! She has wrapped up babies on her back for years! The chitenge is her unique tool, and the baby knows the drill. Was the Western woman wrong in showing concern? Not at all! That is her motherly instinct. She was faced with a new scenario, and in her mind, it was risky. Thankfully, the two women talked and laughed about this instructive and funny incident.

This is the nature of cross-cultural relationships. We have different ways of doing and looking at things (perspective), such that two people (mothers) with similar concerns (safety of a baby) will act and approach things differently and still be doing their duties faithfully and lovingly.  Therefore, in cross-cultural relationships, it is essential to note the following:

1. Clear, honest and respectful communication. We have to learn to ask questions to understand why others are doing what they are doing. We must also learn to answer, explain and clarify questions that others may have to help them understand. It is important to remember that other people from different cultures have lived for centuries without you.

2. Patience and tolerance; in light of the differences, we must exercise high patience and tolerance levels. We cannot be offended by every act or question. We must bear with one another when we do not understand each other's practices and norms. We must learn to communicate.

3. There are several ways of doing things. Sorry to burst your bubble, but your great grandmother's recipe is not the only way to cook! God has not commissioned you to get everyone to follow your way of doing things, and your practice is not the standard, so allow people to do things their way and learn what you can from them.

4. You do not have to express your opinion every time. There is a time to learn in silence. Trust me; the world will do just fine if they do not hear your opinion about every little thing! One hindrance to humble learning is our eagerness to express our opinions about everything. There is a place to watch & learn.

5. Have a sense of humour! Let us face it; there are things other cultures do that are just funny and crazy! People from a different culture will often say or do things that will not make sense. Those are precious gifts for laughter, do not waste them with your serious pettiness. Dwell with others with understanding and enjoy a good laugh!

That, in many ways, is the power of the gospel! It draws people from all tongues, tribes and nations, people of all ages and social statuses and make them one. It enables us to love the people God loves. Even though they are different from us, we can still pursue friendships with them. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Christians, Politics and The Gospel

Whatever your views on politics or your political party affiliations, we all cannot run away from the fact that the political atmosphere in our country has been toxic. The talk and thinking along tribal lines, the hatred portrayed through insults and violence, and the thuggery of cadres, to mention but a few, have characterized the past few weeks. To compound the matter, the leaders from the two major political parties were playing the blame game while casting a blind eye to the unsavoury and evil acts. Several Christians have rightly been disturbed by the state of affairs. So what is a Christian to do in such times?  

Submit to the governing authority 

This is probably a truth you know and may have heard several times in your Christian life, but do not be deceived into thinking that your obedience will come by the mere fact that you know it. We should appreciate the fact that when the Bible calls believers to submit to authority, in the Bible times, it was in the context where the rulers of the day were persecuting Christians. In this "arena," he called them to submit to the governing authorities. Refusing to submit to human authority is, in essence, refusing to submit to God's authority. Hear Paul's charge to the Romans:

 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those, who do wrong. Rom 13:1-3

Love your neighbour and your enemy 

When political lines are drawn and sides are picked, we get so charged up and set our minds on winning, whether it is an election, an argument or, in worse cases, a fight. In fact, not only do we want to win, but we want to do so in a way that shames the opponent. We become obsessed with being right that anyone with a different view is in our mind stupid and a fool whom we cannot stand. Such attitudes may be expected of non-believers; it should not be so for Christians. Not only are we to love our neighbours, but we are also to love our enemies and do good to those who harm us and thereby overcome evil with good. The hate speech, malicious slander, tribalism and violence should not be found among Christians who claim to be in the likeness of Christ. Christians should be filled with love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control and humility. We need to learn that it is possible to disagree with each other and yet, live in harmony. It is not only humane; it is Christian.

Fulfil your civic duties

We just fulfilled one such duty by voting. It is also our civic duty to respect and uphold the rule of law. Standing up and speaking out against injustice, regardless of who is perpetrating it, is not wrong. It is our civic duty to defend the vulnerable and ill-treated. We must do this peacefully and within the framework of the law. We cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand when we ought to be correcting wrongs. Be it in your workplace, at home, or on public platforms, stand for justice and do so with courage and love.

Rightly identify the problem.

Interestingly, everyone is agreed that we have problems as a country, but we are not all agreed as to what the problems are and, worse still, what the solutions should be. Part of the reason Christians are confused as to what their responsibility should be is confusion on how to identify the problem. Our country has many issues ranging from poverty, unemployment, corruption, poor health services, lack of proper infrastructure, bad roads to bad governance. However, our biggest problem is a moral one. Sin in the human heart is the biggest challenge and problem we face. It is because of sin that people are corrupt and selfish. It is because of sin that people steal and kill. It is because of sin that people abuse authority. Because of sin, lies, fights, slander, hatred, tribalism, and violence exist. Therefore, unless sin is rooted out of the human heart, any effort to stop sin is temporal and bound to fail as it simply removes the fruit and leaves the roots.

Believe in the power of the gospel. 

If sin is our biggest problem as a country, then the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only solution. Paul cries out, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation". Elsewhere he says, "woe unto me if I do not preach Christ and him crucified." Paul lived in a time when rulers persecuted Christians, inequality was rampant, hatred and tribalism were common, and yet he preached the gospel. Many think this is a political problem that will not be solved except by a political strategy. Many Christians believe the only and best solution to dealing with the issues in our country is through political means, i.e. lobbying, demonstrations, press releases, and boycotts. However, Zambia's problem is not merely political, it is a moral one, and the only lasting solution is the gospel.

We are in a spiritual battle against worldly thinking and ideologies, and we can achieve victory over them only with the weapon of Scripture. Paul says: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). The moral bankruptcy in our country is an indictment on the church of Jesus Christ. While evil and darkness are raging, where is the light of the gospel? Where is the light of Jesus shining in Christians in our society?

John MacArthur is spot on when he says, "We must reject all that is ungodly and false and never compromise God's standards of righteousness. We can do that in part by desiring the improvement of society's moral standards and by approving of measures that would conform government more toward righteousness. We do grieve over the rampant indecency, vulgarity, lack of courtesy and respect for others, deceitfulness, self-indulgent materialism, and violence that is corroding society. But in our efforts to support what is good and wholesome, reject what is evil and corrupt, and make a profoundly positive impact on our culture, we must use God's methods and maintain scriptural priorities." [1]

Trust in God

Guard your heart against despair and discouragement. God is not dead. He sits enthroned, and He is in absolute control of all the affairs of the earth. Rulers come and go, but God remains constant, and His reign is from everlasting to everlasting. Though we must grant civic leaders, their due respect, our confidence must not be in them. We should not view them as our "messiah." We must hold them accountable for their God-given stewardship. So, do not lose heart. Trust in God. Hope in the living, all-powerful, loving and all-wise King of Kings.

 

  [1] https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A124/christians-and-politics-part-1