The Church, like every other institution of our country, has not been spared from selfishness.
And as Tabernacle of David Assemblies of God deacon Felix Kazwala correctly observes, very few people in this country are discharging their duties or obligations selflessly; "selfishness is everywhere, we see it in our political leadership. And it is also present in our workplaces, in our homes and even in the church, there is a lot of selfishness.
A selfish person is only interested in pleasing himself and is looking for only his ways, that which benefits him. While selfishness is for me and now, unselfishness is for the later, the future and for all of us".
This reminds us of the questions a friend of ours had to ask himself when he was asked by President Michael Sata to serve in some government institution. Our friend who had much higher personal earnings was going to face a serious drop in income if he took up the public service job and risked a drop in the standard of living of his family. But then he posed a few questions: can we fail to serve our people simply because of money?
A drop in income should stop us from serving the cause of our people when we are asked to do so? Yes, my family will suffer a drop in income, but are they going to starve? And what will the future generations think of us when they will be told that we refused to serve our government and our people because of fear of losing some income, because of money?
Clearly, all the reasonable and selfless answers to these questions left him with no alternative but to take up the government job that the President had offered him. And today, this brother of ours, this comrade of ours, is serving the cause of our government and our people selflessly and with sufficient honour and integrity. This is what is required from every one of us.
As for our Church leaders, it is true that some of them, or many of them are not in selfless service. There is selfishness in the Church and its leadership. And this being the case, how can they preach the word of God that is so much anchored on selflessness? It is said that justice begins at home and our church leaders themselves must be the first to give witness.
They cannot call others to virtues which they themselves do not make an effort practice. We therefore join Deacon Kazwala in asking our church leaders, our religious leaders, to be selfless, to respect themselves and to be exemplary in their daily lives.
The Church certainly cannot preach selflessness if it does not practice selflessness itself.
The poverty situation we see in our country today is the product of selfishness. And our church leaders are members of the church, which is also the product of a society that has taught us to look coldly on the impoverished plight of our brothers and sisters.
Clearly, our church leaders must draw nearer to the poor. They cannot just dedicate a small portion of their time to the poor; they must selflessly dedicate themselves fully to the cause of the poor, for only then will they be able to change the situation radically.
The limits of self-sacrifice must be set by real love, not by the standards of a society that tends to maintain the present situation. And the real import of all their actions must be sought in the love of their Lord Himself. He shared this love with them, and they must learn to grow in it.
St Paul suggests the outlines of this love: "If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will not do me any good whatever" (1 Cor 13:3); "Remember how generous the Lord Jesus was: he was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty" (2 Cor 8:9).
We, too, must become poor in order to save the poor from poverty. Our churches and our religious leaders must somehow get close to the poor, because only close experience will teach them the great magnitude of the problems that afflict the majority of the people.
They must therefore transform the structures of their organisations so that such conduct really takes place. So long the Church and its individual members do not actually share the problems of the people - lack of basic necessities, insecurity, unemployment and so on and so forth - they cannot really identify with "the joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties, of persons of this age, especially those who are poor."
Against this background, it will be necessary to re-emphasis strongly that the example and teaching of Jesus, the anguished conditions of most of our people place before our church a challenge and a mission that it cannot side-step and to which it must respond with a speed and boldness adequate to the urgency of the times.
Christ not only loved the poor, but rather "being rich, he became poor," he lived in poverty. His mission centred on advising the poor on their liberation and he founded his Church as the sign of that poverty among men or women.
The Church itself has always tried to fulfil that vocation, notwithstanding very great weaknesses and flaws in the past. Our church, given our country's condition of poverty, experiences the urgency of translating that spirit of poverty into actions, attitudes and norms that make it a more lucid and authentic sign of its Lord. The poverty of so many brothers and sisters cries out for justice, solidarity, open witness, commitment, strength, selflessness and exertion directed to the fulfilment of the redeeming mission to which it was committed by Christ.
The present situation, then, demands from bishops, priests, reverends, pastors, religious and laypersons the spirit of poverty which, breaking the bonds of egotistical possession of temporal goods, stimulates the Christian to order organically the power and the finances in favour of the common good. The poverty of the church and its members in our country ought to be a sign and a commitment - a sign of the inestimable value of the poor in the eyes of God, an obligation of solidarity with those who suffer.
We ought to sharpen the awareness of our duty of solidarity with the poor to which charity needs us. This solidarity means that we make ours their problems and their struggles, that we know how to speak with them. This has to be concretised in criticism of injustice, in the struggle against the intolerable situation that a poor person often has to tolerate, in the willingness to dialogue with the groups responsible for that situation in order to make them understand their obligations.
We should try to always be very close to those who work in the self-denying apostolate with the poor in order that they will always feel our encouragement and know that we will not listen to parties interested in distorting their work. Human advancement has to be the goal of our action on behalf of the poor and it must be carried out in such a manner that we respect their personal dignity and teach them to help themselves.
To put it in one word - in a word that sums it all up and makes it concrete - the world that the Church ought to serve is, for us, the world of the poor. And we say of the world of the poor that it is the key to understanding the Christian faith, to understanding the activity of the Church and the political dimension of that faith and that ecclesial activity. It is the poor who tell us what the world is, and what the Church's service to the world should be. It is the poor who tell us what the polis is, what the city is and what it means for the Church really to live in that world.
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