What happens when extortionists “hark the herald angels sing?”
What usually happens at Christmas-time? We go to church in designer clothes. We go back home to declare a surplus. There are glittering decorations, fireworks, gift-exchanges and sumptuous dinner parties. We make a killing selling greeting-cards, gifts, toys, drinks and clothes.
Transporters collect thanksgiving offerings. Policemen collect prophets’ offerings. Kidnappers collect tithes. Armed-robbers collect first-fruits. Booze is consumed to drunkenness. Illicit sexual dalliances gather pace. Road accidents reach new peak. The season is crowned with human sacrifices.
Where exactly is Christ now in all this?
I was once stopped at a check-point around Christmas-time in Lagos. The policeman asked me to open my boot. When I did, he was pleased to find a carton of blank video tapes and a video camera. “Where,” he asked, “are the receipts for these items?” “The video camera is several years old,” I explained. “It was not even bought in Nigeria. The receipt for the carton of video tapes is not here. It is not a new purchase either.”
The policeman was not impressed. “How do I know these are not stolen items?” he said, grinning mischievously at me.
I stood there by the roadside not knowing exactly what to do. The policeman left to confer with his colleagues. After a while, another policeman came to see me. “Why are you wasting so much time?” he demanded. “I am sure you know what you have to do.”
“What do I have to do?” I asked sheepishly. The man was blunt and to the point. “You have to give us some money,” he said. “I’m afraid I cannot do that,” I replied. “Why not?” asked the policeman, somewhat taken aback. “You see,” I appealed to him, “I happen to be a Christian.”
A Christian policeman
The policeman burst out laughing. “My oga must hear this,” he said; hurrying away. Soon, the man who had earlier interrogated me returned. “What did you say to the officer?” he asked, frowning. “Please sir, don’t be offended,” I pleaded. “I told him I am a Christian, so I cannot pay any bribe.” “I am a Christian too,” said the officer unabashedly. “What has that got to do with it?”
I saw an opening there and decided to exploit it. “You are a Christian?” I asked him, visibly warming to him. “Yes,” he replied again. “Then you must know that, as Christians, we are not allowed to pay or receive bribes. When we do, we sin against God.”
The policeman looked at me intently. Then he said: “Okay, this is what we are going to do. We will agree that you won’t give me any bribe. We will say you just met me tonight and gave me some money for Christmas out of the kindness of your heart. What do you think of that?” The sinister grin was back on his face.
So I said to him: “I am sorry, Sir. God cannot be mocked. This is not a social visit. You arrested me in the course of duty. I have a better suggestion. Give me your name and address. Some time in the future, I might come to your station to pay you a visit. Then, out of the kindness of my heart, I may give you a gift as I deem fit. If I do so now, there is no way it would not be construed as a bribe.”
For some reason, the policeman bought the idea. He gave me his name and address and told me he would be expecting me. Then he allowed me to go. However, I never went to see him.
I recall this incident here as an example of how the term Christian has become bastardised. We are now a motley group of very strange bedfellows. We are those who go to church on Sundays but also beat our wives on Mondays. We are those who go to prayer-meetings but also go to cult meetings. Today, virtually anybody can claim to be a Christian, and all of us celebrate Christmas.
But who exactly is a Christian when liars, cheats, fornicators, armed-robbers and “pen-robbers” all claim to be Christians? What happens when extortionists “hark the herald angels sing;” adulterers come with “all ye faithful,” and fraudsters proclaim the “tidings of comfort and joy?”
Jesus warns: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).