What does enduring faithfulness to Christ look like in the current situation engulfing Zimbabwe. Christians are suffering along with their countrymen under the heavy hand of those who hold authority and power. In a situation like this we can recognise and even learn from challenges and hardships that are distinctly Zimbabwean. However, the state of that nation is nothing other than a window into the state of the human heart apart from God’s grace.
The current situation
After the short-lived period of hope for a prosperous and joyous Zimbabwe, came a peaceful election that spelt the beginning of the end of any such hope. Some took to the streets to protest the delayed announcement of the election results, which tragically resulted in loss of life. What followed was a downward spiral: the USD became more scarce, the black market continued to thrive despite government efforts to shut it down, prices skyrocketed, and fuel queues grew, among other things.
Christians are not excluded from this experience and like the 1st century church our faith is rattled in suffering. We seek God’s help and protection, long for his promised peace but also cry out in confusion.
A growing frustration with the nation’s leaders is apparent along with anxiety that we will relive the experiences of 2008. The fuel price hike only agitated the people more and with a heavy hand the government sought to bring order. In the process many were beaten in their homes and on the streets, others were gunned down and many are now in prison. Christians are not excluded from this experience and like the 1st century church (James 1:2-1; 1 Peter 4:12-19; Romans 13:1ff) our faith is rattled in suffering. We seek God’s help and protection, long for his promised peace but also cry out in confusion. How should Christians live in present day Zimbabwe? What does faithfulness look like in the current situation? Three important biblical truths guide us.
1. The problem is sin
God helps us to understand ourselves and our world. We are all born in sin (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3), meaning we do not desire God and reject a relationship with him. Our world is decaying and dying because of the effects of our sin (Romans 8:20-23). Unless our hearts are transformed by the grace of our God we are all capable of great evil.
Unless our hearts are transformed by the grace of our God we are all capable of great evil.
Human history tells this story. The evil happening in Zimbabwe and around the world flows from selfishness and pride, sinful human hearts (Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21; Romans 3:10-18). Zimbabweans must understand that without God the world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). The present situation in Zimbabwe is neither unique nor new, it is merely another evil expression of human sin. This is not a Zimbabwean problem but a human one.
2. The solution is God’s gospel
Hope for this universal problem is only found in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. In paying for the price of man’s rejection of God through his death on the cross and rising victorious over sin and death, sin can be forgiven and the affections and desires of our hearts can be rewired (Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
We need a restored relationship with him, but we also need to die to selfish affections and desires. God’s gospel can change our affections and grow our desire for God and the good of others (Colossians 1:9-14). Once in this position, God enables us through the work of the Holy Spirit and the support of his church to glorify and honour him (Ephesians 4:11-16). This means that ultimately a new Zimbabwe will not result from human efforts but God’s saving grace.
3. Faithfulness in the current situation
God’s vision of a new heavens and earth enables us to gladly long for glory. But we have a mandate for the present (1 Peter 2:12-17). We are Christians before we are Zimbabweans, and this means God governs our lives through his word. God calls us to love him and likewise to love our neighbour (John 13:34-35). In conclusion here are three biblical principles that do not sit well with our wants, but God knows our needs.
(a) Be subject
As Paul encouraged the Romans to be subject to authorities (Romans 13:1-7), Zimbabweans are called to be subject to the government granted it does not instruct us to act contrary to God’s commands (Acts 5:29). What if the authorities are wicked? Well, our obedience to authorities is not conditional upon them being righteous but because God has allowed them to rule over us. What if they are illegitimate? Well, were the Romans duly elected authorities over the Christians Paul was writing to? I don’t think so. And so I guess we get the idea: God is sovereign even in the unfortunate circumstances of our lives and countries.
God is sovereign even in the unfortunate circumstances of our lives and countries.
(b) Be blameless
Our lives are to be blameless before those who do not know God (1 Peter 2:12). Christians are to pursue peace and the good of others (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:11). We learn from a passage like 1 Peter 2:12-17 that suffering and persecution provide Christians with the platform to silence their accusers and enemies.
Beyond the possibility that this will end in altered treatment the far greater hope is that it will create opportunities for the gospel. Christians are called to suffer like those who do not only know they will be vindicated in the present; we must let that confidence radically change how we live in the present before others. Our faithfulness might lead others to faith.
(c) Be purposeful
The Christian’s life is purposeful, even in suffering and trials. Though much of the suffering in the Bible has to do with the persecution of Christians, how we live and respond to whatever situation we find ourselves in should be no different. Christian Zimbabweans must be prayerful, avoid retaliation or repaying evil with evil, protect themselves and their loved ones through seeking safe environments, speak the truth, and love others who are hurting.
We must do this believing that God can change any heart by his grace. But that change needs to start with us.
We have an opportunity in present day Zimbabwe to be faithful and to dispense God’s love, combining word and deed. We must do this believing that God can change any heart by his grace. But that change needs to start with us.