By Tom Schiavon
Tonight I listened to an interview on the radio with former president of Botswana Festus Mogae. He has won numerous awards for excellence and leadership, served on national and international financial organizations, and instituted reforms that made Botswana one the most prosperous and least corrupt nations on the conflict-ridden continent of Africa.
It wasn’t very long ago that his country was in the top 25 nations worldwide in poverty. AIDS has ravaged the country and refugees from neighboring Zimbabwe have exacerbated the unemployment problem. Yet the discovery of marketable raw materials and wise leadership have led to an amazing turnaround, so that it leads the world in the increase of per capita income. The government offers free health care and education to all of its citizens, including AIDS medication and the care of orphans. Not content to merely treat AIDS, he has initiated programs to deal with the root causes of HIV infection in his countrythe mutual sharing of sexual partners and rampant alcohol abuse.
It was an amazing story from a wise and humble man who put his country first and sought to forge a new era in Botswana’s history. It made me long for an American politician who works consistently for justice, peace, and mercy. Inevitably it made me think of two verses from Scripture that I wish we took more seriously as Christians.
The first is from Matthew 10:16 where Christ urges his disciples, in the midst of wolves, to be as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves. Another passage was that of the unjust steward whom Jesus praised, despite his imperfections, as being wiser in his dealing than the children of the light. In both passages a connection is made between wisdom and dealing well with the responsibilities entrusted them.
As Christians who want to re-imagine culture we have to consider what it means to be leaders in this transformation. Some of us have been called to be Shane Claibornes, others to serve as missionairies, and quite a few to be justice-minded soccer moms. But there is an equally important need for some of us to take up the heavy mantle of wise Christian leadership. Too long we have let the secularists have culture while we retreated into our enclaves of Christian subculture, attempting to save the world through catchy t-shirts for Jesus and mosh-pits of faith and brotherhood.
I have only recently come to terms with what Paul intended when he admonished us to grow up and put away childish things. This is a real battle, something that we who love social justice know very well. The world is infused with and distorted by evil and it is our job to fight it, for only we understand that the problem is not simply lack of education or any number of ‘isms but is a battle with the Prince of this world. We have a hope, that when we as an army assault the gates of Hell, it cannot stand. We have the power to change the world.
Justice is not merely something that is dispensed from Washington or implemented in the inner city. It can be exhibited by the Fortune 500 company that decides to raise the wages of its army of developing world workers above mere subsistence. It may be shown by the college president who makes sure that all people are treated with respect on the campus (even the Christians!). And it can be exhibited by the local politicians, lawyers, and judges who are the functional arbiters of justice within our communities.
I pray that this call will stir some to be courageous and strong, diligent to study and think deeply on the universe-transforming aspect of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus Christ has risen and is victorious over death, and that He sits enthroned over the whole of creation, longing to exercise His power on our behalf in the redemption of the world. I pray that we would cast off simpleness of mind and instead live simply-but-wise in a world full of ravenous wolves. I pray that we would be as wise as former President Festus Mogae, a child of the world who is an example to the children of the light.
Tom is an avid Cubs fan whose most recent laudable achievement was singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” dressed as Harry Carey at the local minor league baseball game.