Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.
- by James Dema Marchello
The misleading sacred/secular divide
The dichotomy of dividing work into the secular and spiritual has caused lots of confusion in the way Christians conduct themselves in the affairs of this world. The title of this chapter could be misleading as well. It could easily be understood that some roles are spiritual while others are secular. Because of the sacred/secular divide, many Christians are made to believe that any work or service done in the church or parachurch organisation is spiritual, while any work done in the public arena, such as in government offices and other business sectors, is not spiritual. Hugh Whelchel has rightly commented that “One of the problems of our current Christian culture is that we have embraced the spiritual/secular divide. This divide is a distorted worldview, a false dichotomy, which suggests that some of the things we do are spiritual (and therefore more valuable to God) while the rest are secular. This perspective says the secular is not necessarily bad, it’s just unimportant to God.” This misunderstanding, according to Whelchel, creates a distinction between secular and sacred which is artificial and was not the practice of the early church history. For the reformers, according to Whelchel, “all work is noble if it is accepted and done as work unto the Lord.”
My point of view underscores what has been voiced above, that any role carried out by a believer in Christ is sacred. Whether such work is holding a public office as an employee in the government office or a business company. As a Christian employee, you may be a clerk, an accountant, a commissioner, a parliamentarian, a school teacher in a public school teaching chemistry or any other subject assignment to you as per your qualification.
One wonders as to what Jesus Christ would say if He was asked how He would keep His testimony in a secular role, or if one were to ask Him how His spiritual life was? Such inquiry would make Christ wonder because for Him the whole of His life is spiritual—eating, preaching, teaching, and walking. The dichotomy stated above between secular and sacred was I presume not in the mind of Jesus Christ. His life and ministry while physically on earth were one whole. Anywhere He conducted His affairs was all spiritual. I agree with Douglas Birdsall when he said that “Wherever we are actively connecting with the world constitutes the public arena, whether in the halls of trade, the academy, restaurants, or scientific laboratories. The public arena is not reserved solely for Hollywood and government.” Greg Ayers is right when he said: “The deeming of sacred work (evangelising, pastoral and ministry-focused activities) over and above those everyday activities considered to be “secular” has resulted in the failure to apply the gospel to every part of life.” One concurs with the beautiful quote from Charles Spurgeon by Welchel regarding the spiritual/secular divide. It states:
“To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred. He puts on his workday garment and it is a vestment to him. He sits down to his meal and it is a sacrament. He goes forth to his labour, and therein exercises the office of the priesthood. His breath is incense and his life a sacrifice. He sleeps on the bosom of God, and lives and moves in the divine presence. To draw a hard and fast line and say, “This is sacred and this is secular,” is, to my mind, diametrically opposed to the teaching of Christ and the spirit of the gospel.
With the above insightful quote from Spurgeon, I rest my case in the debate of the sacred/secular divide. Let us progress to understand in depth how as a disciple of Jesus Christ we can keep Christian testimony while in secular roles or in any other function and service we render in the cause of our journey of faith here on earth. For one to keep a Christian testimony in whatever role he or she plays in society, some of the following important matters need to be underscored.
Understanding our identity
One of the fundamental aspects of keeping Christian testimony while in secular roles is for a Christian to understand his or her identity. Identity is extremely an important matter and more so when it comes to taking a stand on issues in society. It is interesting to note that the name ‘Christian’ is actually a nickname given by unbelievers as a result of the resemblance of the behaviour of the early believers to that of Christ. That name appears three times in the King James Version of the Bible, that is in, Acts 11:26; 26:28; and 1 Peter 4:16. The name Christian literally means, ‘little Christs’.
For the early church to earn for themselves that name among the unbelievers was indeed a big testimony, something commendable to be emulated by succeeding generations of believers. The unbelievers then might have indeed observed and admired to some extent the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. After the departure of Christ, his immediate disciples earned that name from the unbelievers of the time.
It is important to note that people who are not church goers and do not read the Bible judge Christians by the way they conduct themselves. They may not have the perfect yardstick in scrutinising the details of our lives, but their judgement, based on what they have heard and know about the nature of God, certainly has a high expectation from any person who identifies with religion, and for our case Christianity.
Regardless of how the world rates us, it is important to be clear about our identity. We are first and foremost human beings created in the image and likeness of God. The Bible in Genesis 1:26-27 states:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”
Human beings bear the very image and likeness of God because God created them that way from the very beginning. Though through sin humanity has marred that image and likeness of God, we are still within that image and likeness. According to Myles Munroe, that first declaration explains God's intent for human beings. In that statement, “one finds the purpose, assignment, potential, passion, and design of man as an entity”.
To add to what Munroe has stated, that declaration of God when He made us from the very beginning is very significant in underscoring the value of humans. A human being is valuable because he bears the image and likeness of God. This issue of value is significant to emphasise in this 21st Century, where humans have become just objects without value in society. Understanding that as humans we bear the image and likeness of God should inspire us all to treat one another with a high degree of dignity. That is the role Christians should play by their own lifestyle, treating every person with dignity regardless of race, tribe, gender, social status, and religion. This is because for the Christian the marred image and likeness of God has been redeemed. The Christian, as Paul advocates, is a new creature because he or she is now in Christ—the old has gone and the new (nature) has come, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Our new nature as redeemed sons and daughters of God is our true identity and it is on this basis that we can maintain a Christian testimony in any setting or environment. We shall not be a sort of chameleon – Christians who change their colour with the environment they are in. Any place a Christian finds himself or herself becomes holy ground. Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour underscores this point further in His prayer in John 17:16 when He says that His disciples are in the world but not of the world. The question is often asked as to how Christians can be in the world but not of the world? As disciples of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, we are physically present in the world, but not part of the world's value systems. The teachings of Christ and the whole Bible inform and dictate our value systems. That is why it is absolutely important that because of our union with Christ and by submitting to His Lordship, our allegiance is to Him and Him alone. We do not take cues to running our affairs from worldly social standards or otherwise from our cultural heritage.
Being ‘in Christ’ makes us Christians first
Some of our believers in Africa, and even may be in other parts of the world, are often tempted to pay homage to their tribal or cultural heritages in violation of some clear teaching of Scripture. It is important to note that because of one's intentional and deliberate identification with Christ Jesus, one is, therefore, a Christian first, only then an African or European or Asian second. Not the other way around. As Ryan Shaw would affirm, “believers have a new status before God based solely on the work of Christ on our behalf.” This new status of the believer should be the basis of reference and not any other frame of reference.
Considering our new identity with Christ Jesus, we now must evaluate every cultural practice in light of the revelation and teachings of the Bible. Any cultural practice that contradicts the Bible must be discarded without compromise or excuse. One concurs with Ben Byerly when he affirms that, “The Gospel will always critique the elements of a culture that are bent away from God’s intentions and distort the image of God that humans bear”. This is a big problem for many Christians all over the world. Some of our cultural practices are so strong that we often gravitate towards them even when they are contrary to clear biblical teachings. Some of us as disciples of Jesus Christ would rather please our traditional leaders because of the powers they wield in the community and also due to fear of being left out or labelled as rebellious to traditions and practices that have existed for generations. But that tension is expected for any disciple of Jesus Christ in every corner of the world. The teachings and demands of Christ and the Bible will always run contrary to many of the cultural and traditional practices of people in the world. This is because humanity has fallen short of the glory of God and even though they still have some semblance to that image, it is distorted and marred. People need total redemption which is only available through Jesus Christ.
Ambassadors of God’s Kingdom in a fallen world
Indeed our identity as sons and daughters created in the image and likeness of God and restored through our identification with Christ Jesus, is the only solid foundation for keeping Christian testimony in any role one finds himself or herself in. We are the redeemed of the Lord and representatives of His Kingdom of joy, peace, and righteousness. We are ambassadors of the Kingdom agenda to a fallen world. An ambassador represents his or her country. Ambassadors of the worldly nations express no personal opinions of their own other than that of the nations they represent. They do not vote or act independently from the country they represent. These ambassadors are the faces or images, so to speak, of their respective nations and any violation of that standing order will result into an immediate recalling home of the ambassador. Do we as disciples and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God understand our role as the various national ambassadors understand theirs?
As disciples of God's Kingdom of righteousness and justice, we should even do better. Because the Kingdom we represent is righteous and just, it should give us even more boldness than the ambassadors of this world. Sometimes I am made to wonder whether a believer can be an ambassador of the nations of this world. Many of the governments in the worldly nations are evil and wicked. There are lots of blatant human rights violations. When ambassadors from such countries are asked to answer questions by journalists on some of the allegations of abuse, either human rights violations or corruption, they vehemently defend the innocence of their governments! That usually makes my jaw to drop and my emotions become disturbed. As a Christian, if I am to be an ambassador for some of these nations, I would certainly be recalled within a week of my deployment. Being an ambassador of God's Kingdom is much easier in a way because it is based on truth, righteousness, and justice. However, having said that, when an opportunity presents itself for a Christian to represent his or her nation as an ambassador, there should be no shying away from such a calling. By the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit, one can be able to glorify God by remaining truthful to issues that bedevil his or her nation. This representation, when done in the right spirit and attitudes, will earn the believer an outstanding status to the government he or she represents and above all bring glory to God. I have personally witnessed this with some friends who are brothers and sisters in the Lord who have represented their nations as ambassadors and have done it well in keeping their Christian testimonies. God is calling believers to represent Him in all areas, civil, political and military service. This is because the influence of His Kingdom must fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, Habakkuk 2:14.
Represent God’s Kingdom in all sectors of society
Indeed, Christians from all walks of life are called to represent God’s kingdom in all sectors of society, that is social, political and spiritual. Shaw puts clearly that “the core of the Christian message is the presence and the power of the kingdom of God at work among us … it is the presence of the government of God experienced on earth in its fullness.” This understanding of God’s kingdom rule reinforces keeping Christian testimony while in secular roles an imperative. Our influence as Christians is not only on Sundays or certain marked days in the church calendar, but in the day to day realities of activity. God is interested in the whole earth coming under His rule and influence. Shaw went on to declare: “God’s kingly vision is to rule with justice and authority over individual lives, families, local cities, ethnic groups, geographical entities and the whole earth.” The whole world is indeed God’s parish, not just my local church in a particular location. This challenges any disciple of Jesus Christ to have a wide perspective of his or her mission. As a believer your place of work, or wherever your presence may be, is where you must let God reign in and through you to touch the people who come under your influence.
Christian influence and impact in society
Like the matter of identity in keeping Christian testimony in secular roles is the issue of Christian influence and impact on society. To reinforce this Jesus Christ uses the analogy of salt and light. The elements of salt and light are very common because we use them almost on daily basis in our homes. One concurs with Michael Youssef when he sums up the metaphor of salt and light: “As ‘salt’, the Christian is to counteract the power of sin. As ‘light’ we are to illuminate or make visible. Our lives are to be an ongoing witness to the reality of Christ's presence in our lives.” There are several benefits of salt both in the ancient and modern times. However, the use of salt as a preservative is the point of emphasis to drive deeper the topic under discussion—keeping Christian testimony while in secular roles.
Most of the societies Christians find themselves in today, especially in Africa, are rotten in terms of moral uprightness. The standard of morality has fallen so low that almost anything goes. Many evil practices that at one point were abhorred, such as immorality, are now being practised without anyone raising an eye brow. Even the high societal values of yesteryears have gone down the drain. Anybody, including Christians trying to uphold the standards of righteousness and morality, is considered archaic and backward thinking. Technology through the internet has made things worse because one can access anything, good or bad, from the social media.
It is against this backdrop of the moral rottenness in most societies today, that the role of salt as a preservative becomes imperative for the true disciple of Jesus Christ. Christians are called upon to stop the moral rottenness by being preservatives just as salt was used to prevent meat from rotting and keeping it useful. That is why Jesus Christ was categorical when He said: "You are the salt of the earth”, Matthew 5:13. This declaration of Jesus Christ is an imperative, - a must. He did not say, you are like salt, but you are the salt of the earth. This statement is an indictment to most Christians who are not keeping Christian testimony in whatever roles they play in their respective societies. Many examples flash through my mind of how Christians have failed to be the salt of the earth they should have been. The case of the Rwandan genocide whereby the statistics of those who call themselves Christian was just over 90% of the 1994 population. Why would any Christian slaughter another fellow Christian in cold blood? What of South Sudan where the majority subscribe to Christianity and many fought for years to resist the Islamic regime of Sudan? Why would these same South Sudanese now turn on each other in a senseless war that has claimed more lives and displaced many others both internally and into foreign countries? The atrocities the South Sudanese have committed against themselves is worse than the years of struggle for liberation from Sudan. What do the Muslims in Sudan think about the South Sudanese who are Christians? This analysis does not, of course, exonerate the atrocities Muslims commit against fellow Muslims. The point here is that followers of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, know much better and so a lot more is expected of them.
In the analogy of the salt, Jesus Christ poses a serious warning. “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot”, Matthew 5:13. He that has an ear should pay attention to this stern warning of Jesus Christ. As Birdsall aptly comments:
“And although salt is not to call attention to itself, it must not lose its distinctiveness or it is useless. In the same way, Christians must not lose our distinctiveness and merely conform to the ways of this world; rather, we must add our own flavour and the Lord’s preserving power into the world. Just as the purpose of light is not to draw attention to itself, but to dispel darkness and to illuminate and highlight what is around us, so too are Christians to dispel darkness and to illuminate or highlight truth wherever we are”.
There is no doubt, as argued before, that many Christians have lost their saltiness and are no longer of any use to society. Anthony B. Bradley in Christianity Today’s article, “You are the manure of the earth”, declares, “If we lose our “saltiness,” we are “no longer good for anything” and cannot be the agents of change that Jesus intended for his followers to be”,This assertion of Bradley is supported by a survey done in the United States of America in relation to the behaviour and attitudes of Christians and non-Christians. The survey was pursued under the one wider question: “Are Christians more moral or successful than non-Christians?” The conclusion was: “We think and behave no differently from anyone else.” One is quite sure that similar conclusions would be drawn if the same survey was carried out in other countries around the world, even ours. Such surveys call for soul searching and a serious evaluation of those who call themselves Christian. There is a big difference between belief and practice. Correct belief does not necessarily translate into correct behaviour. Jesus Christ Himself affirmed this when He said: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”, Matthew 7:21. Similarly, Jesus Christ also says that a tree is known by its fruit, Luke 6:44.
If behaviour does not match belief
When behaviour does not match belief, it becomes a mere religion which does not impact society at any level. Religion, as practised by many, is divorced from behaviour. A story is told of a devoutly religious person who was pursuing to kill his enemy with a sword. When the time of prayer approached, he stopped his horse and dismounted to pray. After prayer, he remounted and continued the hot pursuit of his enemy. This person chasing the enemy does not see any contradiction to his religious lifestyle and the spirit to revenge himself or kill the supposed enemy. Jesus Christ tells His followers to love their enemies and pray for those who hate or persecute them, Matthew 5:44.
A few years ago in the then one Sudan, when the Muslims in government and security organisations were giving a hard time to people in Juba, it was during a church leaders’ workshop when one participant asked, ‘how Christians should respond in the face of the unjust mistreatment Muslims meted on Christians?’. One of the bishops responded by saying that we should pay them back with love. That is indeed the spirit of Christianity and emulates the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. On the Cross, He even prayed and forgave His murderers. If the population of Christians in South Sudan is anything to go by, the current war and atrocities should not be witnessed at the scale we are witnessing, if at all. But many of the politicians and key government officials attend church services faithfully every Sunday, yet whatever they hear in church does not translate into what they do in their offices. Indeed those of us who call ourselves Christians should take heed to these words of Jesus Christ: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”, Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:11-13; 2 Timothy 2:19.
In Africa the church is growing numerically and on Sundays most churches are fully packed to the brim. Some churches even have two to three services on a single Sunday. The question is: Where are these numbers during the weekdays and how do they flesh out their faith in their day to day lifestyles? It is a pity that not many Sunday attendees live to glorify God in their day to day activities. Could the expression that ‘Christianity in Africa is one mile long and a centimetre deep’ be true in view of the poor example of believers in the market places and at their homes? Brian Rice laments the same shallow Christian influence and he makes reference to a statement J.I. Packer made in regards to North American Christianity: “North American Christianity is 3000 miles wide and ½ inch deep”. This statement, according to Rice, is a lament of the lack of spiritual transformation due to ungodliness or a lack of Christ-likeness. He calls upon the so-called Christians to lament the “lack of being strikingly different from the culture around us and for looking just like the culture in so many unfortunate ways.”
Positive transformation by sound Bible exposition
The above concerns about the quality of our Christianity and how it plays out in the day to day lifestyle is a challenge to church leadership. Church leaders, especially those in the teaching and pastoral responsibilities, should not pride themselves by the sheer number of Sunday attendees or those in their membership register books. They should be alarmed by the lack of influence their members have in the day to day affairs of their communities. Gideon Para-Mallam in one article in the Lausanne World Pulse admits that in many of church ministries “Success in ministry is measured by quantity rather than quality. Numbers are celebrated and quality is compromised in the process”. Indeed church leadership needs to rethink their definition of success. It is not the numbers, but true Christ-like disciples whose lives are radically transformed and who, in turn, positively impact their respective communities leading to godly lifestyles. This positive transformation can be achieved by enhancing the teaching ministry of the church—sound Bible exposition. To drive this point of teaching home, Para-Mallam’s quote from the Rev. Kuzipa Nalwamba, a woman cleric of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ), is in place:
“In most of our nations Christianity has a public role, yet we have not developed an adequate theology… How that is harnessed and channelled towards mission, rather than the church merely gaining clout, would have far-reaching effects on the church's prophetic role in society, and therefore its mission. But the public role of Christianity is a mixed blessing because collusion with the state [is] a real temptation for the church. History attests to how that can harm or enhance mission”.
This observation by Rev. Nalwamba needs to be adhered to without question by the African church leadership if we are to see tangible fruits of the Christian faith in the continent. As pointed out earlier on, let the African church not pride itself based on numerical statistics, but on the quality of members who are able to make a positive impact in society.
In the same breath as using salt as an analogy of Christian influence in society, Jesus Christ also used the analogy of light. He said:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”, Matthew 5:14-16.
Christians are the light to shine through the murky darkness of the world, thickened with evil and wickedness. Jesus Christ challenges us not to hide the light in our possession but rather allow it to shine and give light to those in the dark. “Jesus isn’t telling His disciples to let their light shine only when they are with each other. No, He is telling them to let their light shine in the dark places.” I think this is a perfect analogy challenging Christians to keep their testimony while in secular roles. Christian belief is not a private affair that we keep to ourselves. If one knows the nature of light, it cannot stay hidden unless one deliberately puts a cover on it to prevent it from shining. This implies that if Christians are not visible in society, they are deliberately (and sinfully) covering their lights. Jesus Christ said emphatically, a city on a hill cannot be hidden. In other words, a Christian in a place without being covered by some artificial coverings will be visible.
The contrast between light and darkness is so obvious that it does not need argument. Whenever there is light darkness escapes and whenever there is darkness it shows the absence of light. The two cannot coexist. Those who call themselves Christian and at the same time entertain darkness should rethink their relationship with Christ—the Light of the world. The characteristics of light are so obvious that one does not need a different explanation for it to be understood. Let the light of Christians shine in the darkness of their respective communities. God is glorified when Christians are driving away darkness by their godly lifestyles. As Ram Gidoomal points out, “Christians working in public service have a wonderful opportunity to represent Christ and impact society through their words and actions. When it comes down to it, it’s an intensely practical exercise”. That is the challenge and opportunity Christians should take upon themselves in serving God’s purposes whenever they find themselves in public engagement. As Welchel rightly states: “Our lives are to be lived out to serve the common good and to glorify God through all we do and say.”
Little can be a lot
Jesus Christ also used the analogy of yeast to illustrate further the importance of Christian influence in society, Matthew 13:33. A small amount of yeast can leaven a huge amount of dough. Jesus Christ likened Christians to yeast—for influencing or leavening society. If Christians know the kind of influence they have, they will not be intimidated by any role they engage in in society. Just like yeast cannot be intimidated by any amount of dough, so disciples of Jesus Christ in any secular roles they engage in need not be intimidated.
Thus, it is important that Christians know the characteristics or qualities of yeast. Yeast from the outside looks helpless, harmless, but works away quietly. Yeast is not intimidated by any amount of dough and does not become dough even though it is within it. Yeast also expands under pressure and once in the dough, it cannot be extracted. The analogy of yeast is very powerful indeed. Lack of knowledge and understanding of how Christians should conduct themselves has hindered rather than influenced the society around them. Jesus Christ did not under estimate the powerful influence His followers can exert in society if they understand how yeast works in dough. As Christians, we engage in various roles in society whether in offices, market places, schools, in the farms and so forth. We should, by our mere presence, be a force to be reckoned with as long as we fully understand our characteristics as yeast. This calls for complete abiding in Jesus Christ as the vine so that we can produce fruit without effort, John 15:5. Influencing the world around us should not be with loud microphones and condemnatory attacks either from pulpits or street corners. It should rather be like the workings of yeast in dough— quietly permeating the whole piece.
To permeate society with our influence as Christians should be demonstrated by the deeds and words we engage in on daily basis. It is important to take heed of the Apostle Paul’s advice to the saints in Colossae, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”, Colossians 3:17. There is a simple common expression in the form of a question that some disciples of Jesus Christ use to evaluate their actions: What would Jesus do (WWJD)? I do think that is a good check point as believers in Christ if we find ourselves in compromising positions. It is important to know what Jesus would do, not what my church/denomination says. Not all churches or denominations teach biblically sound doctrine. Any teaching that is not biblically sound cannot be used as a standard for evaluating one's behaviour in public life. Muslims particularly judge Christianity by the behaviour of Christians. When they see open adultery, drinking, they think that is real Christianity. It is important to take heed to such comments so that as followers of Jesus Christ we should lead blameless lives. When believers do acts of love to all people, that will certainly make heads turn, even those people who oppose the gospel. Jesus Christ says that we should love even our enemies and do good to them just like our heavenly Father makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good. He calls us to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is perfect, Matthew 5:45, 48. The demand of God upon His followers is high but He knows that any obedient child of His can fulfil the mandate He places on him or her. Many believers use the excuse that we are human and should not strive to be perfect in this life. Yet the Lord who calls us to perfection has given us the needed grace and power to be like Him on earth.
Another equally beautiful analogy Jesus Christ used for conducting ourselves as Christians in the world is that of being like sheep among wolves. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” Matthew 10:16. Understanding the nature of sheep and how they conduct themselves among wolves is quite interesting. Jesus went further to counsel that as a sheep among wolves, every disciple should be as wise as a snake and as innocent as a dove. The explanations below on the wisdom in the serpent and the harmlessness in the dove are well stated in the website titled www.GotQuestions.org in responding the question: What does it mean to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in Matthew 10:16?
“When Jesus told the Twelve to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, He laid down a general principle about the technique of kingdom work. As we take the gospel to a hostile world, we must be wise (avoiding the snares set for us), and we must be innocent (serving the Lord blamelessly). Jesus was not suggesting that we stoop to deception but that we should model some of the serpent’s famous shrewdness in a positive way. Wisdom does not equal dishonesty, and innocence does not equal gullibility”.
More lessons from nature’s Creator
If we take heed of such counsel from the Creator of the animals who knows the potential in each animal, we shall be effective disciples in any situation or environment.
Sheep by appearance are harmless, helpless among wolves, non-threatening as well as inviting. The fact of sheep being among wolves from a human perspective is frightening indeed. In a way this shows the follower of Jesus that the mission of God’s kingdom in a hostile world seems threatening in all aspects as well as overwhelming. But it is important that one takes heed to what Jesus Christ underscores in how to behave oneself in such an environment—by being as wise/shrewd as a serpent and as innocent/blameless as a dove.
How do snakes conduct themselves when catching their prey? They have the ability to camouflage, and they can adapt to fit in the environment they are in, in order to catch prey. I have personally witnessed a documentary on National Geographic TV channel of how snakes in the desert can camouflage in the sand without prey such as a lizard not noticing them. A snake has the capability to twist its body and fit into any situation. Snakes are also so patient in strategising in catching their prey. It is said that a snake can watch from five to ten hours and then strike only when they are sure. Snakes are not intimidated by the size of their prey. Some snakes swallow huge animals. When Jesus Christ instructs to be like a snake among wolves, He knows what He is talking about and sets us many challenges to learn from.
How about the dove’s behaviour? The Lord Jesus Christ counsels us to be as harmless as doves. What are the unique characteristics of doves that can be emulated by a disciple of Jesus Christ? Doves are quiet by nature. They are pleasant birds and attractive to watch. Doves also are non-irritating or non-fractious. What are the lessons for the disciples of Jesus Christ in being like doves as we bear witness in a hostile environment? Most of the Christian witness in our time is so pompous and loud. Some of the adverts or placards we display drive people further from the gospel. For example, “Be saved or go to hell”, “I am a demon killer”, “Repent, Jesus Loves You”! Many of us as Christians in our witness to the world do not pay attention to the methods we use. Some Christians find it hard to start and finish a conversation without mentioning God or Jesus Christ.
Evaluate conduct among the unchurched
A careful reading of the way Jesus Christ conducted Himself in His time would expose lots of the methods we use today in bearing witness for Him as crass and crude. The brief characteristics of these animals Jesus Christ mentions are enough to challenge us to evaluate our conduct among the unchurched people. Failure to practise and act in a manner that our Master Jesus Christ counsels has brought some unnecessary persecution. One can boldly say that most of the persecutions Christians face are due to the arrogant and careless ways of bearing witness to the gospel. Other persecutions are genuine and not called for by any poor manner of conduct from Christians, but some remain self-generated.
Another important aspect in relation to keeping Christian testimony while in secular roles is highlighted by the conversation of Jesus Christ and the Samaritan woman in John 4. For emphasis, a full quote of the words of the Samaritan woman and the response of Jesus Christ is quoted below:
“Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth”, John 4:20-24.
In the context of the whole conversation of Jesus Christ and the Samaritan woman this is a real eye opener as far as true worship and the relationship of God to the believer is concerned. It reveals the heartbeat of God and what He expects of His children. Jesus Christ made it abundantly clear that worship as per God’s definition is not a matter of time or place (location). It is not in the mountains of Samaria and not even Jerusalem, the centre of the Jews’ religion. The essence of worshipping God in truth and spirit is well summarised below:
“The overall lesson about worshipping the Lord in spirit and truth is that worship of God is not to be confined to a single geographical location or necessarily regulated by the temporary provisions of Old Testament law. With the coming of Christ, the separation between Jew and Gentile was no longer relevant, nor was the centrality of the temple in worship. With the coming of Christ, all of God’s children gained equal access to God through Him. Worship became a matter of the heart, not external actions, and directed by truth rather than ceremony”.
Worship in all life
God is after people who will give Him heart worship in truth and spirit regardless of where they are in relation to place and when they are in relation to time. In addition, worship is not just prayer and praises that we offer when one sets time or place aside to perform. In the broader sense, everything a Christian does is worship. For example, I am worshipping God when I talk to people, when I teach in class or do accounts on my desk in the office, or when I am in the bank transacting money. I commend what John Piper says that worship has to do with real life and is not just a mystical interlude. He states:
“The first thing we learn is that worship has to do with real life. It is not a mythical interlude in a week of reality. Worship has to do with adultery and hunger and racial conflict. Jesus is bone-weary from the journey, hot, sweaty, thirsty — and he decides: “Yes, even now, just now I will seek someone to worship God — a harlot, a Samaritan adulteress. I will show My disciples the worship that My Father seeks and how He seeks it in the midst of real life from the least worthy. She is a Samaritan. She is a woman. She is a harlot. Yes, I will even show them a thing or two about how to make true worshippers out of the white harvest of harlots in Samaria”.
In the above emphasis of Jesus Christ in relation to worship, the dichotomy of the sacred and secular divide is challenged. The place of worship and the time of worship are not significant as far as the relation of a person to God is concerned. When a person is in right standing with God, that person can give true worship to God at any place and at any time. If the understanding of worship is giving worth to God, then the idea of location and time is no longer an issue. As Piper puts it, “How and Who you worship are vastly more important than where”. Many Christians understand worship as being in a certain form or style of posture in a place designated for that purpose and during a particular day of the week. That is what I would term as a religious understanding of worship and it is misleading. Due to this understanding some days are set aside and on those days, such as Sunday, Christians appear holy. This is carried out further to certain Christian festivities such as Easter and Christmas, where followers of the Christian religion seem more committed than other days.
The question to ask in relation to the above analysis is how such a misunderstanding of true worship impacts the lives of those who profess the Christian faith in the day to day issues. The danger I see in regard to this misunderstanding of true worship is that Christians behave like Pharisees, and Jesus Christ did not approve their way of worship to God. He called them names –hypocrites or white washed tombs who appear one thing on a certain occasion and quite the opposite on another. The true disciple needs to understand that relating to God and serving Him is twenty-four-seven (24/7). A disciple of Jesus Christ is the same person on Sunday as well as on Monday. Every day and every time are holy to the Lord.
If all who call themselves Christian live as Jesus lived?
When disciples of Jesus Christ see themselves as being holy always and in all places, then keeping on Christian testimony while in secular roles will become natural. Such disciples will represent God in whatever roles they find themselves in—offices, market places, schools, and so forth. Jesus Christ lived 24/7 for the Kingdom of God and that is what He expects His followers to emulate. One wonders what would happen if all those who call themselves Christian would live as Jesus Christ lived. The world will be turned upside down. That is possible if there is a commitment to follow Jesus Christ wholeheartedly. In what is popularly known as the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus Christ prayed: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, Matthew 6:10. Jesus Christ desires for His followers to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven. This calls for a lifestyle that is lived 24/7. God indeed wants His will to be the order of the day wherever His sons and daughters are found. Jesus Christ was in public ministry for about three years and no one doubts the impact and footprints He left on earth. If one Man can do that, how much more can the millions of His followers accomplish the world over? There is no doubt that the disciples of Jesus Christ can do like their Master. The Master Himself said: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father”, John 14:12. It is interesting that Jesus Christ has put confidence in his followers that they are capable of doing even more than Him. This takes away any excuse from the followers of Jesus Christ. The Master Himself believes that His disciples have what it takes to represent Him on earth.
We have been given what it takes
With this clear mandate and confidence the Master has put into His disciples the abilities to keep Christian testimony while in secular roles. It should no longer be an afterthought but something to always look forward to doing. Many Christians are apprehensive when it comes to bearing witness for Jesus Christ and the gospel. This is partly due either to ignorance of the potential placed in us by God or because of compromising lifestyles lived by the so-called Christians. For example, in offices if a Christian does the same as all the others who are not disciples of Jesus Christ, when it comes to issues of time keeping or corruption, it will be hard to hold others accountable because we ourselves do the same bad things. Jesus Christ was categorical when He said:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”, Matthew 7:3-5.
This statement of Jesus Christ in the form of a rebuke is to be always taken heed of by His disciples. Perhaps some of the reasons many Christians are not bold to bear testimony while in secular roles is due to the ‘log’ that is in their eyes? The people who are not disciples of Jesus Christ will not pay attention when some so-called Christians try to act holy when they do not demonstrate by their example and lifestyle what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ in the public arena. Witness for the Lord Jesus Christ when backed by an example speaks volumes. In fact, a genuine Christian testimony is a transformed lifestyle and not just verbal words that one mumbles. Words without actions are dead and counterproductive to any Christian trying to keep a Christian testimony while in secular roles.
Keeping Christian testimony in secular roles can be enhanced by the disciples of Jesus Christ in being sensitive to the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the day to day activities. Jesus Christ did not leave His followers without help in facing and overcoming the daily challenges. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and an advocate, John14:16-17. All that is needed from the follower of Jesus Christ is obedience to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit that is freely available. Trusting the leadership of the Holy Spirit makes our stand easy in any environment disciples of Christ find themselves in. The Holy Spirit also makes our bearing witness as Christ’s disciple easy in the world, wherever we find ourselves. Jesus Christ promised that, “When He comes, He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement”, John 16:8. Jesus Christ went further to state:
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come”, John 16:13.
One of the main reasons why some Christians fail to keep their testimony in secular roles is their failure to depend totally on the power of the Holy Spirit Who is ever available to lead and guide at all times. Rick Renner in his blog says, “that we should be willing to let the Holy Spirit lead us in every part of our lives. We should be so surrendered to Him that wherever He tells us to go or whatever He tells us to do, we should simply be obedient and follow.” Indeed if Christians comply without question to the promptings and leading of the Holy Spirit, they would be better witnesses in bearing testimony while in secular roles.
Witness that will last forever
Being a witness for Jesus Christ and taking a stand on any issue or challenge does not depend on human power, wisdom, or skill. One is reminded of the words of the Prophet Zechariah in the Old Testament to Zerubbabel one of the national leaders, “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit’, says the LORD Almighty”, Zechariah 4:6. It is important to note that at the end of the day, for a disciple of Jesus Christ, what is done in the Spirit will abide and stand the test of time.
While on earth Jesus Christ completely depended upon God the Father. At one time He said ‘I do exactly what I see my Father do’. “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does”, John 5:19. If Jesus Christ, being God in the flesh, was dependent on God the Father for all that He did while on earth, how much more should His followers depend?
In summary, keeping Christian testimony while in secular roles, involves the consideration of the following already discussed in detail:
1. All engagement and involvement must be godly. Living a dichotomous lifestyle—the separated sacred/secular is misleading. Everything a Christian does whether in word or deed is done in the name of the Lord and for God’s glory. What one does and what one says should be in harmony. In other words, believers should walk their talk.
2. Understand your identity as a son or daughter of God redeemed by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary and separated to live holy lives unto God. Our new nature as redeemed sons and daughters of God is our true identity and it is on this basis that we can maintain a Christian testimony in any setting or environment. The believer’s identity as the redeemed child of God is the only solid foundation for keeping Christian testimony in any role where one finds himself or herself. We are the redeemed of the Lord and representatives of His kingdom of joy, peace, and righteousness. We are ambassadors of the Kingdom agenda, ambassadors to a fallen world.
3. Called upon to stop the moral rottenness of general society by being preservatives just as salt is used to prevent meat from rotting while preserving it. That is why Jesus Christ was categorical when He said, “You are the salt of the earth”, Matthew 5:13. Christians are also light to shine through the darkness of the oppressed world, darkened with all kinds of evil and wickedness. Jesus Christ challenges us not to hide the light in our possession but rather allow it to shine and give light to those people who grope and stumble in the dark.
4. Permeate and influence society just like yeast does to dough, Matthew 13:33. A small amount of yeast can leaven a huge amount of dough. Jesus Christ likened Christians to yeast—to influence or leaven society.
5. Apply the characteristics of sheep, doves and serpents to teach wisdom. When personally applied they can make us become effective witnesses of God’s kingdom. The Christian like sheep among wolves should be wary and tactful, learning from the characteristics of snakes and doves. Snakes strategize when catching their prey and can camouflage to adapt and fit in their environment to catch their prey. Every Christian is urged to act wisely and with tact if they are to be effective witnesses in the market place. Some of the present aggressive and attack in witnessing tactics should be discarded to effectively win a lost world over to God’s kingdom. Christians should be as harmless as attractive doves.
6. Worshipping God is not based on location or time. This is the vital lesson from the words of Jesus Christ to the Samaritan woman in John 4:23-24. God seeks those who worship in truth and Spirit. How and Who one worships is much more important than where. Jesus Christ lived 24/7 for the Kingdom of God and that is what He expects His followers to emulate. Again one wonders what would happen if all those who call themselves Christian would live as Jesus Christ lived? It should be recalled in the broader sense that what everyone does as a child of God is worship—talking, teachings, farming, administering services in the office and so forth.
7. Remember God has not left you without help. The Holy Spirit is available not only to empower but also to guide and lead on a daily basis. To benefit from this help Christians must be sensitive and obedient to the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit in their day to day activities. This dependence on the leadership of the Holy Spirit is imperative for keeping Christian testimony while in secular jobs.
Keeping Christian testimony while in secular roles is not one option among several. It is a mandate, part and parcel of the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations and teaching them to obey all that our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, commanded us. May we as Christ’s disciples in this 21st century continue to be passionate in our quest for keeping Christian testimony while in our secular roles, for the sole purpose of glorifying God, and making disciples of all whom we can as we wait for the return of Jesus Christ. Soon He will set His everlasting Kingdom visibly on earth. Watch and be ready.
Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted
1. “We do not take cues to running our affairs from worldly social standards or otherwise from our cultural heritage”. Why? Why not? Think about this is the light of our Lord Jesus’ prayer, John 17:13-19.
2. In Matthew 5:13 Jesus “did not say, you are like salt, but you are the salt of the earth. This statement is an indictment to most Christians …”. Why? What practical steps must we individually take to become what we ought to be where God has placed us?
3. “If behaviour does not match belief”. What do Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:11-13 and 2 Timothy 2:19 warn about? Which is most important: that we know Jesus, or, that Jesus knows us? Discuss the difference.
4. “… so disciples of Jesus Christ in any secular roles they engage in need not be intimidated”. By sharing what yeast does to dough, Matthew 13:33, list as many encouragements as you can, for our Christian witness in our worldly world. Are there any downsides to also consider?
5. What can we learn from the four animals Jesus mentions in Matthew 10:16? How does it help us in living for our Lord Jesus out in the workaday world? Looking at some different Bible translations may help you.
6. Name the lessons Jesus did, and spoke, when He met the Samaritan woman, John 4:4-30, 39-42.
7. Discuss “God has not left you without help”. How may Galatians 5:16-25 guide your understanding? Be as practical as possible.
Hugh Whelchel Evangelism, Work, and Your Calling to “Fill and Subdue” the Earth https://tifwe.org/evangelism-work-and-your-calling-to-fill-and-subdue-the-earth/ (accessed July 31st 2017). Hugh Whelchel How Then Should We Work: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work https://store.tifwe.org/collections/books/products/how-then-should-we-work (accessed July 31st 2017). Doug Birdsall Christians in the Public Arena: Our Calling from God https://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/pdf/issues/September2010PDF.pdf (accessed September 8th 2017). Greg Ayers Christian Writers, Thinkers, and Practitioners Weigh in on the Sacred/Secular Distinction https://tifwe.org/the-sacred-secular-distinction/ (accessed September 11th 2017). Hugh Whelchel, Evangelism, Work, and Your Calling to “Fill and Subdue” the Earth https://tifwe.org/evangelism-work-and-your-calling-to-fill-and-subdue-the-earth/ (accessed July 31, 2017). Myles Munroe Rediscovering the Kingdom: Ancient Hope for our 21st Century World Expanded Edition- Kindle Version, (Destiny Image Publishers: Shippensburg, PA) 2004 p.28. Ryan Shaw Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God’s message Bearers (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Illinois) p. 132. Ben Byerly, Why African Christianity is "a mile wide and an inch deep” https://benbyerly.wordpress.com/2008/12/11/why-african-christianity-is-a-mile-wide-and-an-inch-deep/ (accessed September 8th 2017).  Ryan Shaw Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God’s message Bearers (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Illinois) p.138. Ryan Shaw Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God’s message Bearers (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Illinois) p.138. Michael Youssef Christianity.com, Christian: You are Salt and Light http://www.christianity.com/bible/christian-you-are-salt-and-light-11596480.html (accessed August 23rd 2016). Doug Birdsall Christians in the Public Arena: Our Calling from God https://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/pdf/issues/September2010PDF.pdf (accessed September 8th 2017). Anthony B. Bradley You Are the Manure of the Earth http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/october/you-are-manure-of-earth.html?start=3 (accessed September 1st 2017). Bill Peddie’s Website: https://billpeddie.wordpress.com/articles/science-and-religion/does-christianity-make-a-difference/ (accessed September 1st 2017). Brian Rice Leadership ConneXtions International http://lci.typepad.com/leaders_resourcing_leader/2008/11/3000-miles-wide- and-12-inch-deep-ibt-3.html (accessed September 7th 2017). Gideon Para-Mallam Theological Trends in Africa: Implications for Missions and Evangelism https://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/lausannereports/920/03-2008 (accessed September 7th 2017). Ibid. Anthony B. Bradley, You Are the Manure of the Earth http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/october/you-are-manure-of-earth.html?start=3 (accessed September 1st 2017). Ram Gidoomal Christians in the Public Arena https://www.lausanneworldpulse.com/pdf/issues/September2010PDF.pdf (accessed September 8th 2017). Hugh Whelchel, Evangelism, Work, and Your Calling to “Fill and Subdue” the Earth https://tifwe.org/evangelism-work-and-your-calling-to-fill-and-subdue-the-earth/ (accessed July 31st 2017).  https://www.gotquestions.org/wise-serpents-harmless-doves.html (accessed September 8th 2017). Sermon by Dr Myles Munroe Kingdom Influence In The Marketplace, (Youtube uploaded by Stan Belysher, February 17th 2017). Sermon by Dr Myles Munroe Kingdom Influence In The Marketplace, (Youtube uploaded by Stan Belysher, February 17th 2017).  https://www.gotquestions.org/worship-spirit-truth.html (accessed September 8th 2017).  John Piper God Seeks People to Worship Him in Spirit and Truth http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/god-seeks-people-to-worship-him-in-spirit-and-truth (accessed September 10th 2017).  John Piper God Seeks People to Worship Him in Spirit and Truth http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/god-seeks-people-to-worship-him-in-spirit-and-truth (accessed September 10th 2017). Rick Renner Learning to Follow the Leader http://www.renner.org/holy-spirit/learning-to-follow-the-leader/ (accessed September 8th 2017).