By Their Fruits, You Will Recognize Them
By Wilfred Manyango
October 28, 2002
About few weeks ago, my American friends e-mailed me an article about Liberia. They were very excited about what was written in the article. Apparently they had not seen this in a long time. The article, which I had read previously, concerned the actions of President Charles Taylor at an evangelistic crusade held in Monrovia. During the crusade, according to the article, the President knelt down on the podium and confessed his sins and acknowledged the reign of Jesus Christ in his life and the nation of Liberia. He recognized that Jesus was the true leader of Liberia. I replied my friends and told them that I had read the article, and that I had some questions. While I did not call in to question the genuineness of the confession or surrender, because only the Lord alone knows the heart, there are lots of issues happening in Liberia that make one to stop and think whether one needs to have a second thought about these high profile situations. The Bible tells us that by our fruits, people will know whether we are Christians or not. So, even though we cannot judge one's relationship with Christ definitely, there are situations when we have genuine reasons to question their commitment to Christ. From what has been taking place in Liberia in terms of the President's noncommitment to the rule of the law, to his denial of the deity of Christ and recently his attempt to take a second wife under the cloak of traditionalism, I want to ask whether President Taylor is really committed to a true relationship with Jesus Christ.
I want to begin on the outset by saying that no one is perfect. Scripture attest to the fact that we are all sinners under the condemnation of God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But through Jesus Christ we have a relationship with God that delivers us from the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:8,9). However, when we trust Jesus as our Savior, we are to bear fruits. Basically we are to develop a lifestyle that contrasts our previous lifestyle. We do this as we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and as we develop daily disciplines such as prayer, Bible reading and church attendance. So God requires us to show forth fruits that show that we are His children. In as much as we are not perfect, this is no excuse to live lifestyles that contradict God's word.
In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus says that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Basically as Christians we are likened to a good tree and it is incumbent upon us to bear good fruit. When we continuously bear bad fruit, then people are right to question our commitment to Christ. This then brings me to the issue I want to address concerning our president. I do not intend to disparage our President. As a Christian, I am under the obligation to obey and pray for my leaders even if I do not agree with their principles (Romans 13:1-7). But also as a servant of God, I am to speak out when there are issues that come up that contradict God's word and reproach His name (Ezekiel 33:1-9). I want to address three issues that I think make me begin to question President Taylor's commitment to Christ.
The first concerns the prevailing issues in Liberia regarding the rule of law. This is an issue that is not only of concern to Liberians, but the world in general. The US State Department, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the consortium of Human Rights Groups in Liberia, among others have all complained about the lawlessness in Liberia. How can all these organizations be wrong? How can all these organizations conspire against Liberia? It is impossible to think that there is a conspiracy. There is a problem and until the leader addresses it, more problems will arise. Even if the president may not be aware of these alleged abuses, the blame is laid at his feet. As a leader, you are responsible for those you lead. This then brings me to the Christian virtue of love for one another. If the president confesses to be a Christian, loving one another will translate in to making sure that every Liberian is treated fairly and there are no human rights abuses. John tells us that we cannot say we love God whom we have not seen if we hate our brother whom we see. Also whoever loves God must love his brother ( I John 4:20,21). If the president says he loves God, he should love his brothers, that is every Liberian whether they agree with him or not. He should not allow the mistreatment of any body whether Liberian or not. He cannot say he loves God when human right abuses takes place under his leadership. He must deal with those who break the law. But with the human rights situation in Liberia so low, I question whether he loves God, as He says. His fruit is not evident of what is required of him.
Secondly, I heard a while ago that the president denied that Jesus is God. I think, of all the issues, this is the most important one. Scripture attests to the fact that Jesus is God. John 1:1-14 tells us that in the beginning was the word and He was with God and He was God. He dwelt among us. This is a reference to Christ. Jesus says anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father. If anyone denies the Jesus is God cannot tell me that they have a relationship with Him. Thomas called Jesus God (John 20:28). Jesus was worshiped. The doctrine of Jesus being God is very central and unique to Christianity and distinguishes it from every major religions in the world. Our faith rises or falls on this doctrine. If Jesus is not God, then He was not sinless, because only God is sinless and then he could not have been the right one to die for our sins. If He had sins, how could He pay for our sins? Because He was sinless and divine, He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. So if President Taylor professes to be a Christian and denies the deity of Christ, I have some questions about his commitment to Christ. Up to the writing of this article I have not come across any change in his thinking despite the response from the Christian leaders in Liberia against his views.
The camel's back was finally broken when I recently read that the president had paid a dowry for another woman and in his attempt to legitimize it reminded the people that he was a traditionalist in addition to being a Baptist. I think this is a shame and should be condemned by all especially since the president professes to be a Christian. This is syncretism and the Bible condemns it. When the children of Israel were about to enter the land of Canaan, the Lord warned them against mixing their commitment to God with traditions that he hates (Deuteronomy 18:9-13). I do believe that there are elements of our traditional beliefs that do not contradict the Bible, but there are others that do, i.e. multiple wives, secret societies, ancestral worship, etc. When our traditional beliefs contradict the Bible, we need to recognize that the Bible is pre-eminent over those beliefs and as such we submit to the Bible. In this instance, you have a person who professes to be a Christian and is blatantly breaking the law, which he is supposed to obey. No wonder the President is not afraid to break the law of the country. Scripture expressly teaches that marriage is a union between one man and one woman(Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-5). So when the President violates God's law and attempts to justify his sin by hiding under traditionalism, his commitment is questioned. I think this is the time for the Baptist Church to show everyone that they stand for holiness and righteousness and will not condone any sin. They should not be deterred because he is the President. Christ is watching to see whether this church will honor her commitment to Him. They need to pray and act in love. They need to confront the president and tell him to repent and if he refuses, they need to take some disciplinary actions against him. Christian leaders also need to rise up and condemn this sin. If we do not speak up, when the Lord judges, we
Let us remember that Jesus said, "not every one who calls Him Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father in Heaven." So let us not be deceived when people call the name of Jesus. Let us watch and see whether their lifestyles match what they are saying. If they are living differently from what they are professing, we have every reason to question their commitment to Christ. By their fruits you shall know them.
About the Author: Rev. Wilfred Manyango is an Assistant Pastor in Dallas, Texas.