Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Another Perspective

I recently read an article with a refreshingly different perspective regarding the preemptive approach we should be taking as Christ-followers –specifically Nigerian Christ-followers—to the sustained barrage of spiritual and physical assaults from a group known as Boko Haram.

The writer of the article, rather than focus on the notion that Boko Haram is God’s instrument of judgment against a rebellious Nigeria—a point which I’ve heard made in many quarters—sounds a clarion call to “prayer and fasting” against the “Spirit of Sudan.”

The writer goes on to describe this spirit as the “Satanic principality that ha(s) sponsored Sudan’s very oppressive anti-Christ Islamic regime, and sustained twenty cruel years of a most ravaging civil war between the Christian south and the Islamized north.” This spirit, the writer opines, having lost that territory (presumably southern Sudan), was seeking another abode…in Nigeria no less!

Now, as a backdrop to what I have to say, let me explain why this writer’s approach speaks to me so much more than many others.  After the Haitian earthquake of 2010, many self-styled leaders in the global prophetic movement declared the earthquake to be God’s judgment on an already impoverished nation because of its spiritual ties with voodoo and witchcraft.

Never mind the fact that there is a thriving, praying Church in Haiti that is constantly crying out to God for mercy upon their nation. Similarly, Japan’s 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami drew similar “words of judgment from the Lord.” None of this is new as divine judgment prophecies have been both issued and challenged since the days of Noah.

The problem is that, as Christians we’re continually challenged by our extremely limited understanding of how God’s mercy and judgment work in tandem, and what that looks like in a world facing the consequences of its own sinful nature. We further muddy the waters by invariably equating disaster with judgment.

Is disaster always a consequence of disobedience and the result of God’s judgment on the disobedient? Well, you be the judge. In Luke 13 we read an interesting encounter of some Jew’s in a conversation with Jesus:

“At that time some people were there who told Jesus that Pilate had killed some people from Galilee while they were worshipping. He mixed their blood with the blood of the animals they were sacrificing to God. Jesus answered, “Do you think this happened to them because they were more sinful than all others from Galilee? No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will be destroyed as they were! What about those eighteen people who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them? Do you think they were more sinful than all the others who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will all be destroyed too!”” (NCV)

The problem with the hidebound approach many Nigerian Christians take to our faith is that we forget that God is a loving God and that He sent His son, Jesus, to die for all people not just Christians. I’ve often heard people say that they prayed and “diverted” disaster so that it hit another area instead of where they live. What? How does this fit in with the Scriptures? Is the whole idea of prayer simply to protect ourselves from danger at the expense of other people’s lives?

Contrary to what many Christians might have us believe, God is not an angry God chomping at the bit while waiting to destroy a pagan, unrepentant world. The world was dark and ugly before He sent Jesus. That’s why He sent Him! The deviance and darkness of our world doesn’t take God by surprise. If He’d wanted to simply destroy it He wouldn’t have sent Jesus.

The real issue for us to be concerned about isn’t judgment but repentance. That’s what I love about the article. It calls “Watchmen” to man the ramparts of prayer and be alert. It reminds us of a very real enemy—Satan—who is masquerading through entities like Boko Haram as simply an organization looking to legitimize their own world view. This is not the case!

The call to prayer AND repentance must be drenched in love and not indictment and judgment. There are too many Nigerian Christian leaders living less than authentic lives, yet they point the finger of judgment at others and claim that the hardship and suffering our nation is facing is as a result of their lack of faith or spiritual integrity. Really?

If anyone is called to live as an example for others to follow, it’s the Christian leader. If the “Spirit of Sudan” is to be prevented from gaining a foothold in Nigeria, it won’t simply be because people prayed.  It will also be because the Church repented and reoriented our focus on the things that are important to the heart of God.

Don’t misunderstand me to be saying that prayer isn’t efficacious, because it is. But if prayer alone changed circumstances and people, Nigeria would more than likely be the best place on earth to live since, arguably no other nation offers more prayers than Nigerians. Clearly repentance and living a life of integrity and character are also key components of a nation’s fortune.

Remember that 2 Chronicles 7:14 sounds a timeless reminder;

“Then if my people, who are called by my name, are sorry for what they have done, if they pray  and obey me and stop their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land. (NCV)

Again, contrary to what many self-styled “Intercessors” and prophets might say, the healing of the land isn’t contingent on prayer alone. There is a call to repentance as well as a call to obedience that go hand-in-hand with prayer.

So, risking the redundancy of repeating myself, let me again state that the call to preemptive prayer is a refreshing call which, for a change doesn’t focus on judgment. However, to stop there would be an exercise in futility since the Church is called to live by example.

It’s so much harder in the doing than in the saying, especially because we’re constantly treading the fine line between waging a spiritual battle against the enemy of our souls and reaching and loving the broken and lost—which, amazingly, includes members of Boko Haram—but Jesus’ commendation to His saints at the end was not “Well said…” nor “Well thought…” but “Well done….”