How Shall I Deal With My Neighbour?

Imagine the hatred that manifests during the election season in our beloved country Kenya. Net effect of property destruction, loss of lives, displacements, etc. You have some idea of the feeling and its causes between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus. Both politics and religion were involved.

I was raised in rural areas of central Kenya and that meant exposure to people of different cultures was equivalent to milking sheep- at least for myself. There was indoctrination of hatred which we gladly absorbed unconsciously. If you behaved in a manner that demonstrated decimal or no hygiene we were told by our mothers: Tiga mitugo ya Jaluo aria mathambagiria mwana karai ga kurugira ngima (Don’t behave like Luos who bath their children in the metallic basin which will later be used to cook ugali) or Tiga guikara ta Turukana haha (Don’t stay here like turkana- nakedness) or tiga gutuhenia ta maathai (Don’t cheat us like maasai). Imagine now of an individual who never left the locality of the people of his culture and how their perspective is shaped with reference to the mentioning of these tribes. They will think that Luos are dirty, maasais are fools, naked like Turkana and dark-skinned like Nubians amongst others. This reminds me of a roommate in college who told me of a similar experience where being called a Dinka (a tribe) was an insult by their parents- he is from South Sudan. Funny enough he had never known that such a tribe exists.

Such warping of minds by our parents and old folks of our cultures are meant to cut short any link of friendship, association and so on with other communities. They tried to establish utopias which are hard based on the idea that we have at some point stretched ourselves beyond the horizon in search of better lives. Unfortunately, many have remained captives of such ideologies and whenever they see individuals from other tribes especially from western Kenya they will describe them as Nyamu (animals). This is not a problem with Kikuyus only but with other tribes too referring to others as wachawi (witches), wezi (thieves), night runners, etc. Talk of deep rooted stereotyping. There is a saying amongst the kikuyus: mari kuraihu matininaga nyota (the water that is far away will not quench your thirst) which means that your brother who was willing to assist you yet he is far is no good. The one near you is far more important. Imagine insulting others by the mention of other tribes: wewe jaluo, wewe maasai, wewe this, wewe that. Jews called the Samaritans a ‘herd’, not a nation. A widely used Jewish proverb stated that “a piece of bread given by a Samaritan is more unclean than swine’s flesh.”  The worst insult that a Jew could use was to call someone a Samaritan, such as in John 8:48 when the hostile Pharisees answered Jesus by saying, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and are possessed?”

When I was relocated beyond my region to RifValley, I was deposited in the midst of individuals of different cultures and had to subscribe to a different school of reasoning. Experience and exposure opened my mind to the running of the actual individuals and the errors we had been baptized into. Our parents had not also had that much experience and so this was a narrative that was long instilled into them by the political elites and their parents too. Theirs has been the commitment to pass these ‘oracles and knowledge’ (of course it is foolishness) to the next generation. Intermarriages were and are still avoided due to the myths and misconceptions that have been deeply inculcated into them/us. I hear there are curses in some of our clans where the great grandpas left statements of how noone in their families shall marry from certain tribes and parents forbidding their children from marrying from other tribes or else be excommunicated. At one point I went home and I was asked by one of the elders: Nyamu iramutwara atia (how are those animals taking you)? I knew he was referring to the demonstrators during the 2017/2018 election period and I told him  God has distinguished animals and people and he should not confuse the two. Those are human beings, not animals.

How ought we to treat our neighbours irrespective of them being different from us? Should we still hold on unto the myths whose origin is not our doings? It is the generalization concept that has made temperatures and tensions to be held unto all along. Have we allowed ourselves to be  overtaken by bigotry and prejudices?

The fact that there was such dislike and hostility between Jews and Samaritans is what gives the use of the Samaritan in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) such force! The Samaritan is the one who is able to rise above the bigotry and prejudices of centuries and show mercy and compassion for the injured Jew after the Jew’s own countrymen pass him by! It is with those centuries of opposition and incidents behind their peoples that we can understand the surprise of the Samaritan woman (John 4:9) when Jesus rises above the social and religious restrictions not just of a man talking to a woman, but also of a Jew talking to a Samaritan. At times the Samaritans were known to lie in wait for Jews traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem for the feast days. Sometimes these attacks escalated into death. As a result, Galileans (except for Jesus) used the longer route on the other side of the Jordan. Keeping this long-running feud in mind, Jesus’ contact with the Samaritan woman at the well was not only surprising, it was shocking. And his parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’ was not a gentle story, but a stinging insult to the Pharisees.

This is no different than what we experience in our times. When you introduce your fiance, business partner, best friend, close allies, etc from a different tribe other than your own where everyone else from your locals are left with their mouths wide open. I must confess that my best friends are not from my tribes and my locals find that hard nut to crack. That you support individuals from different tribes other than yours is such a surprise.

Just like the old day rabbis, our politicians have made use of these mistrusts and stereotypes to hold captive the electorate by lighting their emotions. It is in this season that the so-called kingpins will converge and plot schemes to manipulate the electorate in the name of tribes. On one hand it will be about us and our people and on the other hard it will be about how the other tribes are not worth. That is when massacre and wars burst forth. And what for? Mtu wetu/ our tribe. Soon we will paste our minds with the old mindset replacing the help, assistance, friendship, brotherhood, goodness, etc we have received from other individuals. Just like the Jews of old, we dehumanize others and that makes it easy to perform any other animosity unto them. We overlook the neighbours we were having as family friends, fellowship members, clients and customers, etc. They will trigger on the emotional parts like land, positions in government, livelihood and so on. At the end of the day everyone will rise against the other but their safety is guaranteed. 

The jews looked for an opportunity to trap Jesus in the bid to discredit his teaching as well as vindicate their ground. In Matthew 22.34-39 Jesus gave a very compelling answer contrary to their expectations that the whole law is pegged on two commands: Love God with everything and secondly love your neighbor as yourselves. He did not speak of tribe, kins, etc but anyone who is your neighbour. The samaritan woman and the good samaritan display the truthfulness of this script. Jesus has loved the whole world and since no one holds the monopoly of choosing the tribe to be born into, the best we can do is to treat everyone with love. Do away with stereotyping and prejudice and avoid generalising. Worth noting is the fact that no matter the evils we find in individuals belonging to certain tribes, the truth will always be that the guilt is on the individual and not the tribe and the reason for them being so is not pegged on the tribe but individual decision. So then, how shall I treat my neighbor? I will do so by love.

He made the first move.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me, 

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Not the labour of my hands

Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless, look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly;

Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

In Genesis chapter 1 after creation, man was on default setting: righteous. When he, God, looked at the creation he had established, he said that it was very good. He set one instruction for Adam and Eve: that they ought not to consume fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. Genesis 2.16-17…But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” Satan comes and implants doubt into the mind of Eve. They ate and suddenly their eyes were opened to the reality that they had just disobeyed God.

They, just as many of us do once in a while, searched for a solution that would cover up the mess they had soaked themselves into. They took some leaves and made garments for themselves. Genesis 3:7-11…At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” “Who told you that you were naked?” the LORD God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”. First, God was aware of what they did and where they were hiding. His query was an invitation for Adam to open up from within himself. Secondly, lame excuse/ blame game is what the two give as the reason for their failure to keep the command. Adam cited Eve who cited the snake. However, they had freewill.

One would ask, was the leave-covering they made for themselves insufficient to cover their body that the Lord made one made of skin? Genesis 3:21… And the LORD God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife. It is rather obvious that he saw the insufficiency of the efforts to redeem their state. They were not only naked physically but also spiritually which was as a result of breaching the set conditions. Their efforts were futile. They were escaping their fellowship with him because they had sinned, otherwise, they would not have hidden themselves since they were covered in leaves garment. They could not atone for their fall. Through this act, sin enters the world. Romans 5:12…When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

There was the dispensation of Moses and the establishment of law(s). The accomplishment of this was not a walk in the park. The lamb God slaughters to make a garment covering for Adam is a symbolic representation of the sacrifice he would make for the atonement of sin. In Genesis 22 God asks Abraham to sacrifice his own son Isaac and he goes ahead to implement the command which turns out to be a test. His son asks him about the lamb for the sacrifice since he saw the firewood and everything else minus it. Abraham replied in vs 8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together. He’s about to slay his son, who had not resisted to be sacrificed, when the angel of the Lord calls out and there is provision of the lamb.

Enlarging this view, years down the line God provides an ultimate lamb who carries the sin of the world unto himself upon the cross. In John 3.16-17…“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. In Romans 10:9-10…that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. This means that personal efforts to justify oneself before God without Grace and mercy will be described as filthy rags. Isaiah 64.6…We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind. 

This then is to say that there is a way out of our insufficiency which is to confess to him who can enable us and capacitate us to walk righteously. The invitation, similar to the one given to Adam, has already been placed. Our confession and belief is what is waiting. If only we confess, a new garment is given to us: the lobe of righteousness. Not only does this happen that our identity is changed and we are given the right to become the children of God. John 1.12…But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 

How then are we to approach it? In self introspection,one will realize there is bankruptcy in our effort to work out our way from sin and the guilty thereof. The following hymn gives us an idea of what to do: Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee;…Not the labour of my hands Can fulfill Thy law’s demands; Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow, All for sin could not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.  Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Saviour, or I die!

Do Tears Have Meaning?

I am reminded of the old days during my  primary school years and some of the beliefs and things we engaged in. Of such is having the class hero. This is that individual who was thought to be the unbeatable man. How did he come to be? If two boys were fighting and the winner emerges victorious, another challenger would rise and the next evening, while going home, there was a war arena in a specific place where only the special members attended- off course the manner in which the information was passed was mole like (chini ya maji-under water). The web continued till a time when one boy would be left ‘unattended’ by any challenger. In this system, you had to weigh your skill versus what others were treated to for them to surrender. To this, I was in most cases a spectator- I know myself well. That’s the formal method. There were also informer methods and were equally recognised- provided there is an unchallenged superstar and witnesses. This latter method is where one had a chance of working properly on the standing ‘Mohammed Ali’ in the presence of witnesses. You were crowned the new superstar. Maybe you worked on him while he was unwell, unaware,etc but those factors counted not. At other times the weak, not so many, challenged the last man standing and having gathered all their strength and fear delivered unexpectedly. You were a hero. Chances are that you may stand unchallenged for a while retaining the trophy. Additionally, you were to represent your class or group in case another group or class started displaying their horns. The rubber often met the road because chances are that you are ill-equipped yet your crew expects you to exhibit the lion in you. The tail often located its coordinates effortlessly. The lion in you often looked for the next hutch having turned into a rabbit.

David of the old was a young shepherd who looked after his fathers livestock. He, in his own arena, had killed a lion and bear that had attacked his fathers flock – 1 Samuel 17.34-36. The context of this statement is from the scene where Goliath had spent days insulting the soldiers of Israel in calling them for a moment of fellowshipping over spears, shields and all manner of weapons. No man dared face the man who resembled his name: Goliath. They were aware of the call they had signed to yet to jump into fire is not a measure of hardness. None had matched fourth. They were hiding and this was such a stress to the Israelites. David is sent to visit his brothers with meals- reminds me of the visiting days in boarding schools because there were some goodies that were tagged along. Curiosity led him to enquire of what was unfolding and within time he was a man well furnished with the info. Goliath the superhero of Philistines was still waiting for the opponent’s superhero. His brothers, soldiers with experience, thought that David’s questions were just to seek an opportunity to watch the battle happening. They described him as proud and deceitful- most likely he had explained to them how he had rescued his father’s livestock as well as bringing the predators, not just any predators, to rest. In my primary school years I was among the closest to gravity and not a strong lot. I imagine how some of the gigantic guys we schooled with would respond: tiny you what do you think you’re doing? In both scenarios, manly wisdom dictates that you don’t try death. But God had guided David. I imagine if he had decided to use a spear; it would mean drawing close to the giant and that was more risky. Same with sword or dagger. With the sling and stone, he was in a position to aim and attack from a distance and that’s how the weak-inexperienced soldier delivered victory. He carries the crown. This paves his way into the military over time; and victory upon victory follows by the time he is the king. Defeat is not a part of his vocabulary. I can only imagine his fame in the eyes of everyone. No wonder at some point the women sang that Saul had killed his 1000s and David his 10000s which brought tension between them (1 Samuel 29.5). Truth is that he could not fight everyone, including those from his side in case they were to have a challenge.However, everyone held high trust and expectation for him.

With the scenario of boys above, there were instances of prevailing against opponents and there were those when pain was not a necessary course to pursue – and a marathon sporadically took place. In both cases the superman determined how they engaged. Years later David is the king and victory is not lagging behind. From battle to battle he is delivering as they expected. Years ago I watched the movie: HEROES SHED NO TEARS where the starring,Eddy Ko, passes a lot of tribulation yet in all these moments he grieves not. Amidst the torture, losing of friends and family members, he shed no tears. Emotions in men, in most cases, are assumed to be for the weak, not for supermen. No wonder when boys fought, whether one is hurting as hell or broken or whatever, tears were not a part of  their buffet. While growing up we were told that men shed no tears. David has a son, Absalom, who kills his step brother Ammon who had raped his sister Tamar, went to exile, returned and this time round with a plan to overthrow the king: David- the then superwarrior. Absalom is cunning and is quite aware of how justice is such a tool of influence to the multitude. He uses this tagline of executing justice to win the support of the men of Israel. Before late, Absalom is in a conspiracy against the king David, his father and man of war. Without hesitation David calls his men to heel- they escaped (2 Samuel 15:13-14). The king whom everybody looked upto had a solution: let’s escape from the disaster. He had people with him. In 2 Samuel 15.32.. David walked up to the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. His face was covered and his feet were bare as a sign of mourning.and the people who were with him covered their heads and wept as they climbed the hill. This, most likely, was not the expectation of his subjects. The expectation was that he would carry the honour of doing as usual: marching forward, not showing your opponent your back. Facing the mountain courageously, not weeping. The superman at this point was broken. But, was his weeping and escaping a sign of fear? With all the accolades he had earned himself, it was not expected. This was ironic. Were his tears a sign of weakness?

David, I’m convinced, was neither escaping nor crying( weeping for that matter) due to fear or weakness but was worried about losing his other son – Amnon was dead already. (And to sustain this, he later sends his men to search for him with clear instructions: let no harm be extended  upon Absalom-2 Samuel 18.5.) But I also guess that this idea was not known to the subjects including his generals like Joab. To them, Absalom was an enemy who needed to be solved by elimination method. To the rest of the people, an enemy to their king was their enemy hence the call to do anything to help in getting a solution. Where does the narrative that emotions are not a part of men originate from? That a man who cries is a weak man. Tears do not always demonstrate weakness. Escape is not always a sign of fear. There is more to that which cannot be noticed by others. John 11.35… Jesus wept. There was a reason as to why he cried. Irrespective of him being God, he shed tears. Irrespective of the many wars David had engaged in, he at this moment bent towards the unpopular turn. As a man, amidst the expectation that the society has and the traits that attached to being a man (especially in African context) and the load that has been placed on our shoulders, there comes a time when retreating, delaying, slow motion, withdrawing, making that big scream, etc is the only solution at that particular time. Of course by this I don’t mean sobbing every now and then. This is such a non-popular venture but if there is an explainer behind it, it will always make sense. To David it was parental love.

Enrolling Into The School Of Christ.

When the Israelites were about to crossover to the Promised land, and Moses was giving them the last speech in Deuteronomy, there was a caution concerning the desire to be like other nations in terms of rulership, law and governance. In chapter 17.14-20 moses said:  “When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’ you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’  Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. 

Moses understood that the Israelites had a likelihood of imitating those other nations: heathens. This was not the only thing he cautioned them against. Intermarriages, worship, faithfulness in weights, boundaries and so on. They were faithful enough in failing to follow the admonishment of God through Moses which led to their enslavement every now and then (in Judges) and ultimately the one to Baylon. After the leading of Samuel as a judge they went to him and demanded for a king – 1Samuel8:1-22. Samuel reminds them that their demand is the rejection of God’s leading as their king – Theocracy. They wanted a king who would  lead them to war, a king whom they could interact with, a physical king. God tells Samuel in verse 7 that it is him, God, whom they have rejected. Samuel reminds them that their sons and kings will be required of the king for servanthood. He reminds them that there will be a cost to sustain this kind of leadership. The cost would include blood and resources as well as families. Mtoto akililia wembe mpe- sometime when an individual persists to do a thing with a prior warning, let them do so and learn from the consequences.

Worth noting is the fact that with Yahweh as their king, things were okay. All people were equal. Victories, success, prosperity would tag along. God had called them his people and he was their God and Father. That had come to a pause. With the reign of Rehoboam they cried foul – 1 Kings 12. Mwimba wa kujidunga hauna kilio – you can’t claim a lash is painful if you’re the one lashing yourself.

Paul in writing to the Romans, 12.1-2, says:…I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. This is exactly the call that God was calling the israelites to in Deuteronomy 17. He wanted them to set the standard under his guidance. He wanted other nations to learn from them. It is C.S. Lewis who said: There are only two kinds of people: those who say to God “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says “All right, then, have it your way.” In this case, Jehovah executed the latter. 

If there be a time when the church has been drawn to the worldly standard, it is in our generation. Prosperity gospel will often navigate throughout the sermon every time the preacher gets to the pulpit. The world’s measure for a blessed person is the person whose level of income is high, owns several vehicles-from 1, big house or living in a good estate with a lot of luxuries, having the best meals, kids going to good schools – group of schools and so on and so on. The ability to spend high is equated to being blessed. Materialism is the measure of being blessed in our generation. And that is okay if that is what the world determines. The people of God are also engaged in this rat race. No race of possessions has been set forth but many are in it by comparing themselves with others in terms of who gets what and when and such yet the other individual is not aware. And if one does not own as much as their neighbour, they will petition God asking the very question: Why me? Mind you advocating for laziness or prayer alone; it is a call to have a broader category in the standards and view of God.

We are so much into pursuit of material blessings till we forget to pause and reflect on the journey we have come through and appreciate the faithfulness of God. When did good health cease to be a blessing? Or joy, peace, happiness, salvation, goodness, etc? Jim Carrey stated: “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Our coming to Christ Jesus was an enrollment to a school whose ideology is against that of the world. Fame, desire to have a name and own more and be above all and so forth are the ideas that the world would like all to embrace but the call of Christ is to demonstrate forth his glory. Godliness with contentment is great gain – 1 Timothy 6.6-10…Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world,and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. It is the uncontrolled appetite that has led many to engage in vices like corruption, unfaithfulness, laundering, etc while some have fallen prey to preachers who are hyenas in sheep wolf who by all means introduce statements like ‘someone is holding your star’ or ‘panda mbegu (plant a seed of particular amount)’ or ‘you have a curse and need anointing oil or bloom or holy water’ etc. Such gymnastics will never miss on our tv screens- almost all Gimmick pastors own a station- and it will never amount to raising and nurturing believers who can have an effect on the current generation. This is false hope whose aim is to help the victims be at par with the world whereas in reality they are languishing more. Unfortunately only the ‘MAN OF GOD’ seems to ‘prosper’ – materially. 

This translates to sermons of faithfulness, worship, holiness, prayer, bible study, integrity and accountability, consistent discipleship, justice, truthfulness, godliness, etc being scarce. Speakers and preachers of such sermons are quite unpopular as well as their subscribers. They are termed as the boring pastors, boring believers, boring churches, etc. Christianity, if it is to make an impact, christians themselves must live a life that is Christ centred. That the scriptures, in totality, must become a part of our life. We must shift the bar and live our lives in accordance with Biblical standards. We must let the world copy from us, the believers, but not  vice versa. Jesus says that we are light set on the mountain top to light the world as well as salt to give flavour to the world. When the world penetrates the believers, we become corrupted and dance to their tune and so is the reverse. However, when the latter occurs, there is joy, there is prosperity for all, there is growth for all but when the former takes effect:there will be wailing and lamentation.

The Promised Land

Getting to this land was pegged to a single command: do obey the Lord God Almighty. This was the determining factor to whether they would get there or not and whether they would continue enjoying the same or not once they got there. That after you have accomplished all these, do not be proud/arrogant and think that it is by your strength that you made it the far that you will be. With obedience comes humility and worship. No wonder their allegiance is called to Yahweh alone and avoid other gods – you’d say like a plague. At Deuteronomy, the judgement that God had established on the 20+ years old had already taken place where they had all died apart from Joshua and Caleb and Moses himself – who was going to die soon- hence not getting to Canaan. These had disobeyed God (Numbers 14.29).

With the departure of Israelites from Egypt, the final destination was Canaan – The Promised Land. The land, according to Exodus 3.8, was not only spacious but also rich and fertile. This was the fulfilment to a promise made way too long to Abraham. Where they were in Egypt was a confinement zone since they were slaves and that made it easy for monitoring and control. The promised land had rivers and springs and underground streams gushing out into the valleys and hills. The land produced wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and honey (Deuteronomy 8.7-20). It had minerals like copper. They would never be hungry. in this land they would be increased in terms of population and livestock and good infrastructure. They would be rich and wealthy people. This looks like a good city to be in and raises the hope of wanting to be there soon. The land that floweth with milk and honey.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus told the people to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand (Mathew 3.2). He brought salvation to humanity. He brought the everlasting covenant to The Promised Land. ‘For God so loved the world,’ John 3.16, ‘that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ The implication here is that eternal life begins the moment we accept Christ Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. God’s call to the Israelites was that He would be their God and father and they would be his people. A more father-son relationship. Jesus’ call to us is for us to have a similar relationship.The everlasting relationship.

This promised land, by Jesus, is similar to the one Abraham was looking for. When he Left his home country, Abram, was guided by God to the city where he would settle and his offsprings thereof. He forsakes all to the city whose architect is God (Hebrew11.9-10). Even Though Canaan was the city of promise to Abraham and his descendants, Israelites, that was just the foreshadowing of the great city which Jesus came to bring closer and increased on the dwellers. It was no longer open to Israelites only but to all the people of the world. The amplified version of this city is that it is a magnificent one. In revelation 21.10-27 it is described as one with light that was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal, great and high wall with twelve gates, The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass, The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst, etc.  The Promised land in the OT to the Israelites was a tip of the iceberg in comparison to this description.

Secondly, in Canaan they were to continue in worship and praise with all loyalty pledged to the most high. This is the same case here. However, in Canaan there was a likelihood of falling into Idolatry whereas in the new Jerusalem there will be but one thing: Worship. No temptation will be there. Canaan had mines where minerals could be mined but in Heaven, the new Jerusalem, the fitting itself is gold and all manner of precious stones. Abraham never lived to see the glory that came later on with the establishment of Jerusalem the capital of Judah but he is a candidate to the glorious city which he eagerly yearned for: Heaven.

The key and the most fundamental rule is on how to get to the promised land. In Deuteronomy 8.19 Moses reminded the Israelites about worship as a lifestyle. Which broadly would be called doing everything as though it is unto God. That all that they engaged in is worship. These were the chosen people. Jesus placed the same call to his disciples (the Chosen) who had knowledge and had accepted him as messiah in John 14.15: ‘If you love me, you will obey my commands.’ The implication then is that if they would not continue in his commands, then they would be destroyed (John 10.10). Therefore, the call is then to Not Only Accept Christ Jesus as Lord and Saviour but Also Continue In His Teachings/Commands. It is the call to practical discipleship. This is also to imply that those that have rejected Christ Jesus have chosen to exclude themselves from the journey and destination to this celestial city. The Israelites were allowed to coexist with all that were with them irrespective of them being from other people groups provided they adhered to the commands of God. Meaning that other people groups were given a chance to redeem themselves. This is to mean that Christ has taken that venture and paid the cost and ours is just to accept the call and continue in his school. 

Romans 10:8-13…But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” There is no difference between Jew and Gentile. The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’For Canaan, the Promised Land, it was by obedience to law: and unto Heaven, The Promised Land/City, it is by Grace and all are invited.

Working Out Our Salvation With Fear And Trembling

Leviticus 19.2.. Say to the community of Israel, ‘Be holy, because I, the Lord your God am holy. The same words are echoed in Leviticus 11.45, 20.26, 21.6, 21.15, 22.32. God has and will always call us to be holy; to have moral integrity, to be free from sin and be sanctified. Peter echoed these same words in 1Peter 1.15 Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy.

In Numbers 6:9-12 is a statement that shows the seriousness with which God treats holiness. The context of the verse is the rules and regulations that governed one who chose to dedicate their lives as a Nazarite; though some were appointed by God like Samson. One was not to defile themselves by consuming grapes and the products thereof. Secondly they were not to go near a corpse no matter who the dead individual was to them. Lastly they were not to shave their hair whatsoever. As long as they were a Nazarite, they were consecrated to God.

Perchance they fell short of the three requirements above, especially first and second, they were unclean and had to undergo cleansing which was inclusive of SHAVING THEIR HAIR, bring sin offering, a burnt offering. That is not all. The individual will reconsecrate their head and rededicate their time as Nazarite and the previous period of time does not count (the already served term)because the consecrated hair was defiled. This means if the individual was to serve for ten years and gets defiled at ninth year, they will start afresh and will end up serving for nineteen years instead of ten. That was the cost of defilement whether intentionally or unintentionally.

In Philippians 2.12 we are admonished to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The call here, similar to that made to the Nazarites, is to be careful, cautious, keen, be on guard and watch the way we live our lives. It is a call to examine our lives and the way we live it. Socrates’ words resonate with this: unexamined life is not worth living. Having been determined to build a house, Jesus illustrates, one must count the cost to completion for you do not want to quit midway. You seek to get the building to completion. He, Jesus, stated in Mathew 6.24 that whosoever want to go with him must deny themselves, carry their cross and follow him. This was the call to that of the Nazarites too, that it was worth evaluating, laying down plans, scheming out what to do, where to be at any particular moment and how to execute whatever they wanted to to avoid being unclean.

Does that then imply that our walk with Christ Jesus is cut short the moment we tumble down as it happened to Nazarites? Of course not. However, we must choose to remain on course. In Mathew 3.8 we are called to produce fruit worth the repentance. We are not perfect but we must choose to remain on the vine (Jesus Christ) if we are to bear fruit (John 15.1-8) as the branches. This then means that like the Nazarites we must be consecrated, not by shaving our hair, but by repentance. We no longer have to offer bulls, doves, lambs for our atonement. 1 John 1.9 … But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our sins (wrongdoing). That means that if we at any moment fall off his glory, Romans 3.23-24, God has established a mechanism through which we can amend our ways. The caution thereby is that we should not abuse grace simply because it has been availed to us. Additionally, it does not translate that because we live in the fallen and sinful world we have to let sin live in us. Simply because we will be forgiven does not mean we take a swim to where sin is or into it.

Just like the olden days, being a Nazarite was a sacrificial manner of servanthood. Chritianity, life in and after Christ Jesus, is a personal commitment. Noone is born a Christian, it is a choice one makes. And at that particular moment, you are consecrated to him. Contrary to their term of service which was time bound as per the willingness of the individual, God expects Christians to hold on until the last day when he calls us home or he returns. It is an eternal calling. It is an everlasting vow of choosing to entrust one’s life to Christ by letting him into our heart. Upon completion of term of service, the Nazarite was walked out in a sacrifice and ritual/ceremony. Contrary to that, in Christianity, one is walked into eternal life the moment they come to Christ and ultimately they will not be walked out but will be walked into the kingdom of the Glory of God (John3.16,6.40, Romans 5.21, 1 John 5.13, Mathew 25.46). In this then, we must stand and be keen the way we live for we do not want to run the race then fail to get crowned for we pulled out of the race by living lives that were out of order (1Corinthians 9.25).

The Call To Justice

Amongst the instructions that God gave to the Israelites was on how to live with each other in harmony. Narrowing to this was the aspect of justice. In Leviticus 19:15 he said …you shall not do unrighteousness in judgement: thou shall not respect the poor , nor honour the person of the mighty; but in righteousness thou shall you judge your neighbour. He, God is not a respecter of persons. He is concerned with all. The race, social strata, gender etc are not a consideration to him. All are equal before him (Genesis 1:27,31). 

In Leviticus 19:18 he said…do not take revenge on anyone or continue to hate him(who has wronged you), but love your neighbour as you love yourself (Mathew 22.39). This would be out of the recognition that there is a system through which differences are settled – like the  judicial system.

Is this the reality in our land Kenya? Is justice applied on a leveled ground as it ought to be? Our kenyan national anthem has the statement…justice be our shield and defender that we may dwell in unity… This is what may be termed as empty words, beautifully and systematically composed and scribed. Justice is nowadays traded based on the muscles that one has.

In the informal systems, the poor may experience favour due to their lowly position which is a fault to the law of God. However, the most popular scenario is that the rich and wealth have power to influence the course of justice over the poor. They have a way of calling the tune having paid the piper. Bribery and corruption is rampant and year after year it moves from bad to worse. Perversion, delay, denial and false justice is part of the daily deliverables in our judicial system. It is the case of purchased justice.

But who then is your neighbor? Jesus declared that our neighbours are whoever that is near you (Luke 10.29-37). Whether they be strangers to you, rich or poor, different tribes, different gender, different family, etc , they deserve to be treated with justice and love.

The system in which justice is awarded is full of unfairness. With the sentences, fines, bails, etc awarded, the quantity of the deliverables lets out a sigh of pain. There seems to be a judgement scale for the rich men to that of poor men. If the national anthem words are to be realized, if unity is to be a reality then justice has to be the dipstick. Justice has to be implemented in resource allocation, treatment before the law, policy formulation, rules and regulations implementation, etc. The call to justice is for ALL irrespective of the level on the ladder the individual is and and who they are.

SHOULD I TRADE MY VALUES AND PRINCIPLES?

In studying Genesis 39:1-23, Joseph stands out as such a relevant character in our generation with reference to matters materialism. He has a dream like anyone of us does and this marks the genesis of his story-line that begins with persecutions and climaxes with victory. In the wisdom of his elder brother, step-brother, he was traded for 20pcs of silver in chapter 37. Later he becomes the possession of Potiphar. With and in God’s favour he becomes the prefect over other workers in Portiphar’s house. He, Joseph, was a well configured and handsome guy. This drove his master’s wife to having a desire to have an illicit sexual relation with him.

Joseph response was reasonable enough and a truthful one. My master, your husband, concerns himself with nothing in this house other that what he eats. He has set me over everything else apart from you. HOW THEN SHALL I DO SUCH AN IMMORAL THING AND SIN AGAINST GOD? That was not sufficient to tame her appetite or even draw her away, she remained persistent per chance Joseph would change his mind to which he was not willing to trade his holiness for sin. The woman decided to force him into it where he rescued himself leaving his coat with her. She authors a different narrative to set the young man into the center of the fire which catapults him to jail.

I can’t help but think deeply how this is seen as a bar too high to get to and compromise is the order in our day. Figure it this way: Joseph had few chances of living in this manner, that in committing this sexual sin he would be risking his life would his master have discovered it. And if the master would not have discovered it, then God would in either way be aware of it. Failure to do it was a death warrant since the wife would have made up the narrative she made (God is gracious Potiphar did not act as he ought to bearing in mind that Joseph was a slave). He must have been aware that death was an option in failing to satisfy the gratification of his master’s wife. It was a risk worth taking.

Statements such as brown envelop promotion, skirt/ pantie promotion, boardroom promotion, coffee job, one night stand employment, ‘sponsored’ promotion/ employment, light skin employment/promotion, etc are used to describe the privileges rendered in the wrong manner. Individuals have given themselves sexually to make a living. But the biggest question is that of WHY? Some of the reasons are to maintain status quo, competition with peers in amassing materials, social status, and some will say ‘watoto wakule wapi’ (where will the children feed from)? Does this mean that these desires overwrite our principles, moral values, godliness, etc? That we are willing to trade them for that which can be so huge a day and the next day it is gone?

Joseph was a foreigner, may be the only jew and he risked his life to honour God. If not for anything else, why can’t we trade our lives for him? There are bills to be paid and I don’t have job or the pay is too tiny and bills have to be paid is very popular. With such excuses, we end up acquiring these privileges  through the WRONG CURRENCY FORGETTING THAT WITH THE SAME CURRENCY SHALL WE SUSTAIN THEM; AND IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME AND THE CURRENCY LOSSES VALUE AND IS DRAWN OFF THE COUNTER AND REPLACED WITH A NEW ONE. This is a short term solution and so would it have been with Joseph. It may have seemed like a breakthrough would he have given in but it would have ended in him being broken through in a matter of time. Integrity to God and his master mattered.

 Having pulled such an act, he was in a position to walk his neck straight whether in prison or later on when he rose to the position of second in command; over his former master if he was still making use of oxygen. It is not for the unprincipled nor the ungodly to to say no when ILLICIT offers are made. It is then a call for the Godly to say NO. Citing an example my friend shared about one of her close friends, a male, qualified for a position in an organization through facing a board in which he emerged the best. Few months down the line a department manager lands in his office during the lunch hour and makes herself comfortable on his desk, facing him (he was sitted on the chair facing the desk) with her legs apart. The message was loud and clear that sustaining that position was all dependent on his ability to ‘sign the open cheque’ in her terms. She was consistent in following up for some days to which made the young graduate to resign and keep his standards. Mind you the gentleman is not a follower of Christ Jesus. He said that he’d rather go burn charcoal in Ukambani other than do such. Where are such principled individuals fading into? Apparently, the guy is doing well where he is; I’m a witness to that. Remember he would have raised reasons of just being a young man starting life, he has no other option, etc.

Integrity is in most, if not all, cases a map to a  rough mountain whose top exposes one to a promised land though climbing the same mountain is not a walk in a park. Joseph is vomited into the prisons where his character still stands and he is again made a prefect. He ends up spending time there, forgotten only for him to rise to the second in command in a foreign land, as a foreigner in Egypt. Is that not encouraging? Being fired for declining sexual proposals and corruption and other vices does not translate to the end of life. It may not be business as norm but deep withing the conscience there will be a testimony to yourself that you did that which was right and truthful. That you can give a moral direction to others, your children, etc. What principles and values do you live with that you cannot trade them out for anything whatsoever?

Love, The Giver of New Identity

John 15:14-16 You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn’t know what his lord does.But I have called you friends,for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

When we are hiring employees like farm workers, house helps, builders, etc we do vet them to that which we want having stated fourth our terms and conditions. We do expect that they will honour that which has been entrusted to them to execute. We reward them as per the delivery of that which we agreed upon.

We do not ask of their opinion when we are giving them these particular tasks. We never ask our gardeners what they think is better cultivated at a certain portion of their land, we don’t ask for the reason as to why we should dress in a particular way for them to iron our clothes. They work as per our standards, they follow instructions. This is because they are our servants and we are their bosses. A servant could be said to be more noble when compared to slave. This is because slaves have a bigger role to play. Failure to meet the command of the boss is accompanied with anguish, torture and punishment. Slaves work against their own will.

Jesus in telling his disciples that he no longer calls them servants meant a stature and a new identity in place. What defines friendship is truthfulness, openness, care & concern, and so on. Thus, Jesus reminds his disciples that he CHOSE them, He has moved their IDENTITY to FRIENDSHIP and with regards to this He had expectation from them: BEARING LONG-LASTING FRUIT. To a friend, one has no need to hide the intentions of a particular course of action and no wonder Jesus tells them that He has REVEALED everything he heard from God the Father. That means they are beyond slaves and servants and are now friends and no longer in darkness over why God is doing things in certain ways.  The fruit then that Christ calls us to is founded on one main pillar: LOVE.  John 15:17 “I command these things to you, that you may love one another. This then translates to one main command of loving one another. Thus the fruit of love is called to remain. 1Corinthians 13:13 But now faith, hope, and love remain. The greatest of these is love. And this is the response we accord the one who called and loved us first. He, Jesus Christ, has loved us with such a love that is extravagant: John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

Are You A Stranger To Christmas?

Luke 24.13-21 Behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was sixty stadia from Jerusalem. They talked with each other about all of these things which had happened. It happened, while they talked and questioned together, that Jesus himself came near, and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. He said to them, “What are you talking about as you walk, and are sad?” One of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things which have happened there in these days?” He said to them, “What things?” They said to him, “The things concerning Jesus, the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we were hoping that it was he who would redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.

Often times we quote the statement: “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things which have happened there in these days?” whenever an individual is not aware or asking questions regarding a scene, issue or affair that is very obvious and in the public domain. But what seemed to be obvious in this context was not obvious. Thought they had gone to the tomb and verified that Jesus’ body was not there which was a sign of his resurrection, they were either not convinced or they had forgotten. Lu 24:22-24 Also, certain women of our company amazed us, having arrived early at the tomb; and when they didn’t find his body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of us went to the tomb, and found it just like the women had said, but they didn’t see him.” Their eyes and spirit were blinded to the fact that the very individual they were conversing with was the very theme and subject they were discussing about. This was so till they shared in the breaking of bread together: Lu 24:30-32 It happened, that when he had sat down at the table with them, he took the bread and gave thanks. Breaking it, he gave to them. Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished out of their sight. They said one to another, “Weren’t our hearts burning within us, while he spoke to us along the way, and while he opened the Scriptures to us?”

We are in the Christmas festive and in a few days will be Christmas day. Hopefully, you and I are not strangers in the town, country, world and universe at large. It is in the public domain that this is the festive where we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ though it doesn’t mean that that is exactly the date and month of birth. Like these two disciples, majority may think that they are not strangers to this fact but ironically the level of blindness is so high. Like Cleophas and his friend, majority know theoretically that Christ Jesus was born to save the world, he died, resurrected, ascended to heaven and his very present lives with us as God Emmanuel and that he is coming back to judge the world. That is very obvious. But is that all? Other than knowledge alone, we are called to believe. Other than merry and festivity, it is also a moment to reflect in the relationship we’ve had with him. 

When Cleophas and his colleague were asking ‘THE STRANGER’ about the occurrence of the time, they were ready to continue with the conversation but it turned out that they were the uninformed ones. If the same question will be asked during this festive season, why is everyone happy and marrying around? The answer of one being a stranger or not will depend on which side of coin one is for. To some it will be: This is a tradition, the Christmas festive where we always come together and celebrate together, eat together, exchange presents, and drink and so on.  Others will answer that it is a moment to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we evaluate our walk with him, visit the less fortunate, celebrate together, etc. when these answers are weighed against the scriptures, it then when we can determine who the real stranger is and needs to be advised and informed. Lu 24:31 their eyes were opened, and they recognized him, and he vanished out of their sight. Until we feed of his body and blood by accepting Him as the lord and Saviour of our lives, we remain aliens and foreigners to the very covenant he has established. We remain strangers till we accept Christ Jesus. Christmas will only be a sensible celebration if you have Christ born in your heart. Romans 10:8-13 But what does it say? “The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart”; that is, the word of faith which we proclaim; because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Everyone believing on Him shall not be put to shame.” For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone, “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The invitation is that of a welcome to the family where you’re an heir, not a stranger.