I like to think of myself as an academic skeptic. This often means that I love to question everyone and everything and to keep reexamining every decision I make and instruction I receive. As is apparent to almost any Christian or/and African culture scholar, this does not mesh well with either my native culture or religion. Quite frankly, African culture thrives on obedience and respect. If an elder tells you to jump, you jump. You don’t ask questions. You just do it. The same can be said of the Christian faith, or at least the way we practice it in Nigeria. If a man of God tells you to go on a forty day fast, you do it. He is an emissary of The One Who Made Everything. You don’t question God!
You see the problem beginning to emerge now, don’t you? Obviously, one way of life is going to have to bow to the other. In academia, I do believe that the commonly held understanding is that we know nothing for sure. I might be wrong. Correct me if I am. It is widely understood that the entire body of knowledge we have today was built up through questions and more questions. Everything we think we know and understand today might very well be proven to be balderdash in the next century, and so the modern thinker is encouraged to constantly inquire and question. One begins to see the lines being drawn in the sand: faith vs knowledge. Skepticism.
Many people believe that a skeptic is incapable of faith, however, I argue otherwise. If you do not believe you can ever truly know anything in this world, what remains to you is a set of beliefs. Faith. What does the Bible say again? For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. I think it’s quite clear which principle I am leaning more heavily towards if I have to choose between the two: constant questioning or mindless obedience.
Let us leave that for now and move on. Upon being presented with these two seemingly irreconcilable points of view I had on life, I turned to my father. I asked him what place questioning had in the life of a Christian -the military life of the true believer who follows completely the Christian value of prompt and total obedience. I argued that the Church had become so corrupt in the first place (before the Reformation) because there had been none who could question it. The masses had been mindlessly obedient to their supreme authority. And then my father countered that what had corrupted the Church then was not the lack of a system of checks and balances, but compromise and a deviation from the Word of God. I was not convinced. And then my father asked me a question. “As I am your father now, would I ever give you an intentionally harmful instruction?” I answered with a grudging no. He then reponded that God who knew everything and loved me even more than him, would not allow just anyone to have authority over me and then give me harmful instructions. And so the need to question the instructions of my superiors was obviated.
Now I know what you’re thinking. What does all of this have to do with Trump or Jeremiah 29:11? I’ll tell you. Now if God loves you, and no one can rule unless God lets them rule, then President Trump (and any leader you probably disrespect, despise and/or hate) only became a leader because God allowed it to be so. Therefore, any instruction from them is from God and should be obeyed completely, right? Well not exactly. And here is where things get a little too complicated. Let’s switch to Jeremiah 29:11.
Jeremiah 29:11 KJV
 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord , thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Last Sunday I realized something. Where earlier I would have said yes to the question above, now I would say perhaps. What changed? My dad preached a sermon on God’s purpose for our life. Usually, this message is often about how we need to submit ourselves to God’s will but this time my dad went a different route. So recently we have been doing a study of Esther doing our weekly Bible Study. And a particular verse from that study connected itself to Jeremiah 29:11 in my head and I had a ‘lightbulb moment’. You know when Haman tries to kill the Jews and Mordecai tells Esther that maybe she was come unto the kingdom for such a time as this, to get her to do something? (Basically he was saying that she might be queen simply because God had foreseen this and wanted to use her.) So yeah. That verse.
In Church, we are often admonished to submit to authority all the time. And I get why this is important, however, for someone who is considering a career in journalism and activism, this is often a bit tricky for me. Does this mean the Bible wants us to just roll over and play dead whenever we disagree with the government? Should we just mindlessly obey everything the government tells us and never criticize it? How do we reform things if we’re always submitting to them and obeying them completely? Is reformation and civil disobedience unchristian?
Well, this has been bothering me for a while, but that lightbulb moment made me see everything in a new light. Suppose Mordecai had just submitted himself to Haman’s law, what would have happened? The Jews might probably have all been slaughtered. Is it possible to consider then that those laws that we consider wrong and those leaders who make decisions we don’t agree with, were allowed to come into power just so that by prayerfully opposing them we could have our own breakthrough and rise to prominence? Is it possible that God’s plan for our lives is for us to reform something around us knowing that to do so will put us in direct opposition with the ruling authorities? That we aren’t meant to just roll over but actually get up and fight?
Truth be told, I do not know. I still have as many questions, if not more, as I did before that sermon. The fact is that each person’s path in life is different. However, it is becoming more and more clear to me that while complete obedience should be given to God and his true servants always, it becomes more murky when it comes to secular authorities. Whatever you decide from this long-winded rambling, please take this. It is high time that we Christians stop abandoning activism and politics to the unbeliever. Christianity does not negate reformation. So if you see something that needs to be changed, please don’t be afraid to speak up.
And always, always, believe in God’s plan for you. Find it first, and then hold onto it no matter how outlandish it sounds. Feel free to comment below. Grace to you. And thanks for reading.