The language of the American founding fathers gave as a reason for splitting from the crown of England, that King George was essentially content to tax the colony in New England into oblivion without so much as allowing representation in his court, and that these actions on the part of the king were so severe that they had no option but to seek a schism.
They noted that division is no small matter but that in their case it was felt to be correct. The founding fathers tended to be very devout and viewed their struggle through the lens of God’s providence and His being for them in their cause. Probably just as fervently, many English Christians felt an affinity to King George and were aghast at these rabble-rousing colonialists. And they too almost certainly had a biblical basis for supporting their earthly king.
It’s not so simple, being able to say without doubt that in this world, that such and such a position is wrong and unbiblical, particularly when it is legal or lawful.
And so we come to Jacob Zuma, who by general and well-referenced consensus, is the worst president in South Africa’s short democratic history. Some Christians believe that prayer is the answer, others that prayer is the answer, but so is using legal means of protest.
What’s the big deal? Why is Zuma thought of so poorly? Too much material to condense, but Google may be of assistance to chronicle the rape allegations, the corruption charges, the disbanding of a government investigation agency because they were getting too close to bringing Zuma down, the tender fraud, the use of government funds for personal use, the arms deal, the numerous cabinet reshuffles, the firing of the finance minister for not going along with the latest boondoggle.
On Friday just past, many in the country paused to protest…
…just as many paused to pray. So what to do? Does protest signify a lack of belief in prayer?
Is there a middle ground? A place where there can be a meeting of minds? An overlap?
Paul was very specific in his letter to the Romans that it is appropriate for the Christian to be submissive to the state:
“1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” (Romans 13, NLT).
Christians are also to pray:
“1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2, NLT).
Paul however as a Roman citizen was not afraid of using his rights. After causing an uproar in Jerusalem and getting arrested by the Romans:
“24 The commander brought Paul inside and ordered him lashed with whips to make him confess his crime. He wanted to find out why the crowd had become so furious. 25 When they tied Paul down to lash him, Paul said to the officer* standing there, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
26 When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen!”” (Acts 22, NLT).
We also see what the Lord dislikes (hates), and as recorded in Proverbs 6:
“6 There are six things the Lord hates—
no, seven things he detests:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
18 a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
19 a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family.” (NLT)
El Presidente is not doing very well taking that list into account. So, to summarise,
- The Christian should submit to lawful authority
- When praying, Christians should intercede for those in authority as well
- Practical lesson from Paul: if you have rights under the state, there’s nothing wrong with using them
- There are things that the Lord detests and He cannot be pleased with Zuma’s conduct or personal moral state.
So, to take a break from my personal opinion, I have sought out the wisdom of my wife, who is not afraid to rebut my points…
Me: Does Zuma’s public misdeeds meet the threshold of God’s standard of what makes a leader unfit for office? Or does the fact that God appointed Zuma mean that we shouldn’t judge and let God deal with it?
Wife: We are called to pray for all in authority. To submit to authority, even if that authority is corrupt. My main point is that God is in control, no matter the chaos we see around us. He has put people into government and it is He who will take them down by whichever means he sees fit, in his time. When we protest against someone in government, firstly, most of the time it is done during work hours – so our work then suffers. 95% (my opinion) most protests end in violence, property damage and injury to people’s body’s, sometimes even death.
Based on past protests, I do not feel that Christian’s are called to protest. They may not be the ones instigating the violence, but they are indistinguishable in the crowd and so people hear that Christians joined in the march and people see the violence and God’s people get bad reps and in turn God gets more bad press.
Me: Is it possible for prayer and lawful protest to be consistent with a Christian witness?
Wife: Again, as I mentioned above, 95% of protests end in violence, property and bodily damage. There are instances where Christians have organised a peaceful protest (for e.g. prolife protests). The Prolife protests are not against people in authority, so I have no problem with that form of protest. Planned Parenthood is not an authority over anyone, we have the choice whether to walk through their doors or not. As citizens of a country we are subject to the authority put over us.
Me: Would it be wrong to pray for God to deal with Zuma decisively?
Wife: There is no problem praying that. But if it is not God’s will to do so, are we prepared and do we have the faith to accept His answer? We are told by God in his word, that if we pray according to his will, all we ask will be done. We are also told to pray without ceasing. How often do we pray something once or twice and think “what’s the point, God obviously isn’t going to answer the way I want”? There are instances in scripture, where God has a plan and is able and willing to execute it, but due to his people constantly seeking him and asking for a different outcome to what he originally was going to do, he changes his plan. He changes his mind. The key is to CONSTATLY SEEK HIM, BESEECHING him to do what we ask for the sake of his people rather than what he seemed to be planning to do.
God is not a stone, set in his ways and there is no swaying him. Abraham pleaded and negotiated with God for the sake of his nephew Lot. God told Abraham what he was going to do, and Abraham dared to negotiate with him. Yet God listened to Abraham, and relented.
Another example is Nineveh. God told Jonah he was going to destroy Nineveh, unless they repented of their evil ways and turned to following God. Jonah didn’t run in the opposite direction because he was afraid of what the Ninevites would do to him. He KNEW that God would relent and not destroy that unholy, diabolical nation, if they heard God’s message and repented. He didn’t want to give them the chance.
In protesting are we not saying to God, there is nothing you can do about this situation, you wont change your mind, so perhaps we can change things by taking things into our own hands, or we don’t want you to save our government because we don’t feel they are worthy of saving?
Me: Would it be wrong to pray that God remove Zuma from office?
Wife: Not at all. Again, like above, praying according to God’s will is never wrong. Praying without ceasing is never wrong.
Me: If it’s not too personal a question, what did you pray regarding Zuma?
Wife: I Pray that God will soften Zuma’s heart. That he will come to know Jesus as his saviour. Cos above all else, Zuma needs Christ just like the rest of us. Remove Christ from our lives and we are exactly like Zuma.
I pray that God would heal our land, whether that be by removing Zuma from power or by saving him and him being a great witness to other nations of God’s glory.
I pray that we as a nation would shine his light to the rest of Africa, to the rest of the world. That through these circumstances we find ourselves in as a nation, His glory would shine. That many would come to know him as their saviour.
It is often through hardships that people realise their need for Christ. If things were easier in our nation, would we be seeking Him as often as we do? Would we bow the knee, humble ourselves and seek his face?
There is a meme on facebook, from “Grateful Addicts in recovery” that I absolutely love.
“I asked God: Why are you taking me through troubled waters?
He replied: Because your enemies cant swim.”