The other week, I made a trip to the local police station to get an affidavit. In South Africa, this is the venue you head to make a document “official”.
The officer who helped me chatted with me a bit. He inquired how long I’d been in the nation and where I stayed.
Finally he asked what I do.
“I teach the Bible and train missionaries”, I responded.
The officer nodded, raising his eyebrows. He smiled shyly and glanced around. Leaning close to me he says, “I too follow the God of the Bible.”
As the conversation progressed you could see him gaining boldness.
Finally, as I was about to leave, he waved me closer, wanting to tell me something not all could hear.
“I am a born-again Christian.”
I must confess as I left, my first thoughts were not rejoicing or excitement.
Instead I found myself thinking,
- “He will never last in the police force.”
- “He is going to get chewed up and spit out.”
- “I don’t think he will stand up to the corruption and laziness.”
I caught myself in these thoughts and had to ask a tough question.
Do I believe Christians can change nations by being in places of influence?
In South Africa, the police, the electricity and phone companies, as well as taxi drivers all have bad reputations. Allegations of corruption and laziness are synonymous with these professions.
In fact, all nations have notoriously foul or inept professions.
Be it politics, arts and entertainment (such as Hollywood), civil servants in the visa and immigration offices, road workers, Wal-mart employees, or used car salesman. These are all regular targets of our wrath and frustration.
While this is a common occurrence around the globe, I was faced with a tough question.
Do I practice what I preach?
Or perhaps, it is better said, do I believe what I say.
In the organization I work with, we espouse there is no difference between the sacred and the secular. We regularly encourage our students and people we influence to become missionaries in all areas of society.
But when faced with this in the flesh, my initial response was to foretell his imminent failure.
We want transformation in all areas, but would we encourage any of our own children, the converts we make, or our local friends and co-workers to embark on this quest?
Allen Catherine Kagina is the head of Uganda’s Revenue Authority. Yes, she is the tax lady. And she is a Christian.
She was motivated by a desire to convert Uganda from a borrower to a giver nation. The URA has become a model public institution for developing countries.
Kagina is a sought-after speaker who regularly addresses international forums on resource management. I heard her story at Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit this past August.
I was blown away. I wonder how many people did not think she would survive in this job or would be able to resist the allure of corruption?
Do we practice what we preach?
I pray for my brother at the South African Police Service.
May he be a light.
May he stand for truth and integrity.
May he reflect the justice and mercy of God in his role.
And I pray for my heart to change.