Our world is changing rapidly. The mores, norms, and values that moulded the consciences of men are fast decaying, and sadly many of us (Christians) are no better than those who don’t profess any allegiance to Christ and His teachings. We live a life of double standards in a more general sense and our forte is only the ritual of religious rites and services. As I talk with Christian friends, I sense a degree of discontent with the seeming inability of the church (spelt Christians) to impact society’s morals in a more positive sense. It’s as though Christians are increasingly getting weaker and spiritually bland with time and now lack moral strength to advocate and initiate change in the society.
But we don’t have to wait until we all get fired up with super-spiritual power before we can constitute the moral minority that can impact the majority. We can actually start by standing solidly on our convictions and values, as that makes a stronger statement than when we use loud speakers to blow-up rooftops! We can share our bible-shaped thoughts through our spoken and written word which can go beyond the reach of our voice. We can stand for justice, love and truth and defend the voiceless and vulnerable. The poor can find solace in our affirmative action that involves actively engaging in actions that will uplift and release many from the grips of poverty, and oppression. We can speak up against misrule and wastage of resources and use the media ad other avenues to challenge leadership to follow the path of honor ; ensuring that they do what they had signed in the service contract with the people, and the general society.
Not many know about the Russian Nobel Laureate, writer and Christian philosopher, Leo Tolstoy and how his ideas had impacted humanity. Only a few know that he wrote the book ” The Kingdom of God is Within You” which is one of the earliest works that attempted to take the Church out of the walls of the Church Building into the real of social realities in a modern society. While Americans grapple with the repercussions of waging war in Iraq, Tolstoy though from a noble stock challenged both the war policies of the Russian government which was supported by the church of his day. His political restiveness only came after he studied and imbibed the counter-cultural teachings of Christ. He was reputed to have asked “How can you kill people, when it is written in God’s commandment: ‘Thou shalt not murder’?” He was of the view that that Christ envisioned a society based on love and tolerance, one that is completely incompatible with war and all violence. Tolstoy takes the viewpoint that “Thou shalt not murder”, and that therefore all governments who wage war are directly affronting the Christian principles that should guide all life.
Tolstoy became a transformed and socially-conscious man after he studied deeply the teachings of Jesus especially, The sermon on the mount and Luke 17:21 made the most impact on his psyche that he literally came to live and ultimately died for what he believed in. He promoted the principle of non-resistance when confronted by violence, as taught by Jesus and through his ‘Letter to the Hindu’, he was able to influence and impact M. Gandhi who read his books and through the exchange of letters from Tolstoy. He advocated non-violence as a solution to nationalist woes and as a means for seeing the hypocrisy of the church. In reading Jesus’ words in the Gospels, Tolstoy notes that the modern church is a heretical creation:” Nowhere nor in anything, except in the assertion of the Church, can we find that God or Christ founded anything like what churchmen understand by the Church.”
These words had profound influence on Mahatma Gandhi, who later used these ideas to stage a revolution in colonial India. Reading Tolstoy’s book opened up the mind of the world-famous Tolstoy to Gandhi, who was still a young protester living in South Africa at the time. And Gandhi overtime succeeded in galvanising the Indian people together to end the power of colonialism in India without firing a canon at the British establishment. Martin Luther King Jr would adopt the same principles of non-violence to break the powers of segregation in America through the civil rights movement.
Words have power to change the inner man, and the greatest revolution the world will ever experience is the regeneration of the inner man. When the soul and spirit of a man becomes transformed and empowered, one experiences true freedom and that is how powerful God’s word can be to anyone that willingly opens his/her heart to read, study and imbibe it ‘hook, line and sinker!’ If one can accept the fact that slavery of all sorts are dehumanizing, then we can look inwards to draw strength that can help us break free from all the various forms of modern slavery that had subjugated the inhabitants of today’s world: materialism, quest for illicit pleasure, superficiality, injustice, violence, hate, anger and all.
One stunning dividend that comes with the transformation of the inner man is the realization of what love truly means. When God’s words as taught by Jesus Christ enters and takes residence in our inner man, it lets the root of love grow deep into our hearts such that we become true ‘lovers’ by default. We’d love God for sure and He’ll become the greatest object of our quest for knowledge and pleasure. And this love for God would find its expression in the love for others! And when we love others as ourselves, in all its practical ramifications, we’ll become true disciples and followers of Christ and we’d have no reason to ‘prove’ to anyone that we are Christians. They’d tag us Christians and no longer be seen as all-professing Christian ‘hypocrites’!
I’m discovering more and more nuggets and truths as I continue on my inward journey…of seeking to know what faith is, and how I can live out the Christian life in more practical terms in today’s world! In a sense, we’d see how relevant the ‘social gospel’ of Jesus Christ can be in expressing our spirituality. The Christian Church in Nigeria need to learn a lot from the life of Tolstoy and others who stood for what they believed without fearing to love favour with the Government or the establish ecumenical authorities which support the state in one way or the other. We are to actually live out the principles that Jesus taught and not necessarily fill out the church services every Sunday morning!