God is not partisan – By Jackson Ekwugum

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*Photo: Jackson Ekwugum *

Exodus 20:17: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

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As we enter another electioneering season, it is imperative that we take heed to this warning. It amounts to using God’s name in vain when we deploy it to further our political aspirations and partisan leanings. For instance, during the primaries, there were many aspirants making such absurd claims as ‘God’s Choice’, ‘Divine Mandate’, or ‘Divine Project’.

Recently, I read a post by someone averring that the same “divine judgment” that will purportedly be meted out to two of the presidential candidates awaits those who vote for them. I cringed when I read that; it is sad when we presumptuously – and irresponsibly – drag the name of the Lord into our political choices/campaigns.

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It is my prayer that God’s people will not repeat the mistake of 2015. I never saw anything like that. And I hope I don’t see it again. The church was split right down the middle; church members became enemies, pastors fought one another, and many left their churches because of the political stance of their pastors. It does not have to be so when we approach politics and the electoral process with the wisdom of God. Here are some important points to note.

1. God is not partisan. By reason of His sovereignty and foreknowledge, He knows who will win the 2023 presidential elections but He does NOT have a candidate. God’s commitment is to His covenant, His Purposes, and His People. It is, therefore, unwise to put any man on the pedestal of a messiah; no matter how gifted or well intentioned, the best of men are still men. And regardless of who wins, God can use him to accomplish His purposes in Nigeria IF we dutifully play our part.

2. God has his people everywhere, whether PDP, APC, LP, SDP, YPP or ADC. It is quite uncharitable to label those who disagree with you as “traitors,” “slaves,” or “supporters of evil.” It is part of God’s agenda to ensure that no matter which party comes to power, His people will be represented. Obadiah may have been dismissed by some in his day as a compromiser in the palace of Ahab but God used him to deliver 100 prophets from the murderous intentions of evil Jezebel (1 Kings 18:1-14). Some of the Jews residing in the ghettos in Babylon may have written off Daniel and his three friends as part of the corrupt, occultic, and brutal pagan government but God used them in such powerful ways as events in the kingdom later unfolded.

3. Let’s be kind and gracious enough to allow people to freely express their choices and preferences, without making them feel judged or condemned. It is naïve to expect that all Christians or southerners will queue behind a particular candidate; politics just doesn’t work that way. President Buhari did not get 100% of the votes in Katsina! People have their reasons for the choices they make; some may be due to party loyalty, some out of political persuasion, some for future political ambition, and yet others may be because of familial relationships. I recall before BRF became governor of Lagos State, a significant part of the church in Lagos was rooting for a particular candidate based on the principle of power shift. One day I ran into an influential member of a church at the Sheraton hotel and she told me she was there for a luncheon in support of Fashola, adding that they were family members. Ironically, her pastor who is my friend was in the forefront of those clamouring for the other candidate. This is the main reason I always caution pastors to refrain from partisanship or giving their pulpits to politicians. Aside from the fact that the pulpit is not meant for that, members of a congregation have different political leanings/persuasions. Such people feel violated, and may become aggrieved, when a pastor or politician stands up there to canvass for a particular candidate/party, because sometimes they cannot do that effectively without rubbishing the competition. When it comes to politics, pastors are to speak truth to power and hold ALL political leaders accountable to God’s standards of righteousness and justice.

4. Finally, while we exercise our political choices and the right to vote, let’s do well to NEVER neglect this charge: “if MY PEOPLE who are called by My name will HUMBLE THEMSELVES, and PRAY and SEEK MY FACE, and TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). This is still God’s template for societal transformation.

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