By Nnarrel Namani.
God places people in positions of authority and gives them power to execute His will on earth. Often, they get drunk with power, misuse, abuse and betray the trust given them.
Some work against the will of God who placed them there. Ever seen wicked, unjust, exploitative ,oppressive and misrule leaders? Ever heard of immoral, corrupt and inept rulers? Then you have seen leaders abusing and misusing power, its privileges and responsibilities.
Such leaders require being reminded to do the needful when they fail morally or misgovern. They are to be told: You are going the wrong way – away from God’s intended use of power.
Speaking to Power.
Speaking to power is purposefully and respectfully confronting the powers that be with the facts of their moral failures and breach of the social contract with the people. This is done in the hope that those concerned will rethink, repent and correct their ways.
Speaking to power reminds leaders the purpose of being in the positions they occupy. The bottom line is that they should carry out their God-given mandates using God’s principles of good governance.
So speaking to power is not about grandstanding and sensational activism. Rather it is telling political leaders: This is what God expecst from you; why are you doing something different?
In the Bible
Those who spoke to power went with a message from the Lord. Hence they spoke confidenfly, fearlessly and directly. Moses could confront Pharoah and boldly say, “Let my people go,” (Exodus 5:1-2) when the latter enslaved, exploited and oppressed God’s people (Exodus 1:11). Samuel could tell king Saul you are wrong to have carried those things God forbade you to carry after you defeated the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:17-19,26). Nathan could tell king David you are unjust to have taken advantage of your position to sleep with another man’s wife (2 Samuel 12:1-7). When Ahab sold himself to doing evil, Elijah could tell him, you are a murderer and a robber for killing Naboth and taking over his farm (1 Kings 21:17-24). King Ahab hated prophet Micaiah because he does not tell him the sweet nonsenses other sycophants and praise-singing prophets deceived the king with.
Even in the presence of another king, Michaiah was not ‘diplomatic’ and economical with the truth (1 Kings 22:8, 16- 17, 28). The three Hebrew lads dared the great Emperor Nebuchadnezzar, “We will not worship your gods even if our God will not save us from your fiery furnace (Daniel 3:17-18). John the Baptist could tell Herod you are wrong for marrying your brother’s wife (Mark 6 :16-17). Peter could tell the religious leaders; judge for yourselves who is right to obey God or man (Acts 4:19-20).
All these men understood God’s principles of good leadership. They spoke to power even though some met with unpleasant and painful consequences.
A Christian Responsibilty
The Bible asks Christians to pray for all those in authority so they will perform their roles well – working for peace, the good of the governed and execution of God’s justice. Religious leaders in those times guided and advised political leaders on knowing and doing God’s will in governance.
Speaking to power therefore is part of the prophetic role of the church. First, because Christians know and understand God’s moral and social requirements for leaders. Secondly the Christian teaching defines true justice and equity. Thirdly the Christian’s prophetic mandate qualifies him to speak to power.
For prophecy is about conveying God’s message to people, political leaders inclusive. The message could be an instruction, admonition, correction, rebuke, or pronouncement of God’s judgement on whom it may concern.
When political leaders do not keep promises made during campaigns; where they fail to protect lives and property of the citizens; if they instead, focus on stealing the common wealth and; there is much corruption that slows the country’s march to progress and greatness; the powers that be need to be spoken to. They should be told, they are not doing well.
But Curiously many Christian leaders and Christians who are in position to speak to power abdicate this responsibility.
Instead what personal and material benefits they can gain become their main concerns. Rather than speak truth on good governance they scramble for the crumbs falling from the politicians’ table. At best, some prefer criticising government from behind their pulpits hoping that the birds of the air would carry their messages to whom they are meant for.
Speaking to power is not to be confused with political opposition. The former tells the power that be, this is the way God wants it done. The later says you are not doing it right because you are not qualified.
Political leaders need be told the truth without personal sentiment, resentment, and partisanship. It is to simply say, God gave you power and this is the way he meant it to be used. It calls for a return to purpose which has the good of both the leaders and the led as its aim.
Speaking to power is also not all about criticising leaders. Critics evaluate others, find faults and pass unfavourable verdict. They are the best players in any arena that never played. They can discourage and demoralise. Criticismss do not always serve the intended purpose. They end up being ‘idle talks’, because the messages do not get to the leaders. Either the leaders don’t have access to the media the critics used or their handlers shield them from hearing what the critics a are saying.
Leaders need to be supported. When they err they are to be corrected. Even non listening leaders will appreciate being spoken to directly than being criticised in the public media.
Protest by Christians over government’s actions or inactions is a new thing in Nigeria’s Christianity. A protester objects strongly and often angrily to what is happening. Nobody should be denied the right to object or be angry at any form of injustice, oppression and other characteristics of bad governance. This may make the government sit up. But at the end it leaves the Christian body’s relationship to constituted authority strained.
The intention of protest may be perceived wrongly by the leaders. The protester is angry, the leader is angered by the audacity that questions his decisions. At the end no one listens to the other. Those in authority would appreciate being spoken to rather than dealing with protesters. Some may not like what they are told but that someone was bold to talk to them set them rethinking reversing wrong decisions.
It’s Prayer, Plus
Many Christians think prayer is not a realistic approach to finding solutions to political problems. They don’t see how prayer can change the hearts of bad political leaders. So they look elsewhere for alternatives. However, nothing can be more realistic than prayers when it comes to dealing with people in power. If through prayer God so directs other action, it becomes prayer plus that action. This position is hinged on the fact that all authorities are instituted by God and ultimately power belongs to Him. He can plant and uproot rulers. He controls the heart of the king and turns it to any directions He wants. So to God we must first report our leaders before taking any legitimate and God glorifying action.
Speaking to power, therefore, should come after prayers . It’s from prayers we know the mind of God on any leader. After praying we know whether a leader is a Pharoah stubbornly defying God’s order (Exodus 5:2), an unbeliever Cyrus raised to serve God’s purpose (Isaiah 44:28), or a God’s anointed king missing it somewhere. If it’s a Pharoah then we cry out to God for deliverance. If it’s a Cyrus then we cooperate to allow him accomplish God’s purpose for raising him. Cooperation may mean individual or corporate repentance and mending our ways before the Lord.
Christians in the corridors of power are in the best position to speak to their colleagues in power. If not for anything, the fear that posterity will judge them harshly for being part or accomplices in making bad policies that brought hardships to the citizenry should make them speak up. Some Christian leaders wine and dine with political leaders. They should be able to speak up to them. The fear of the consequences of speaking to power may be why many who qualify to speak would be silent and play safe in the face of oppressive and ungodly policies.
Whatever, if they remain quiet one while the people suffer and die daily, God will surely raise help somewhere. We pray Christian leaders should lead in crying to God in times of political crisis. Those who have access to power should be bold, forget about self preservation, and personal interest and speak up. Who knows if God raised them to such positions and privileges for a time like this (Esther 4:14).
●●Namani, a Christian worker, is based in Kaduna.