Last week I discussed the sociological reason we need to safeguard our authority jealously. Today I focus on the political reason. As Jesus was teaching,
“Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:13-15).
This passage only appears in Luke’s gospel account and, as it does not provide further details of the conflict between the two brothers, the identity of the offender is probable. The Mosaic law states that the first-born son is to inherit a double portion of his father’s possession while all other sons receive an equal share (Deut 21:15-17).
Therefore, some bible commentators argue that the complaint was likely against the elder brother who may have wished to keep all the inheritance. Others argue that it may have been the younger brother who desired to have an equal share of inheritance with his brother. In any case, it is clear that it was the younger brother who approached Jesus and no matter who the offender was, greed caused the conflict.
While this passage shows that Jesus avoids usurping another’s authority (I will reflect on this in the future), it is also a strategic response to show his neutrality. Yes, Jesus knew who was wrong, but he refused to intervene. Instead, he began preaching against greed—the cause of the conflict. No doubt, some situations do not require neutrality. Jesus sharply criticised and condemned the Jewish religious and political leaders. However, he spoke against their oppression of the Jewish people and not supporting one leadership group against the other.
The above informs my reflection today. Canon 285 §3 states: “Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power”. The wisdom in this is safeguarding our neutrality. I must state from the onset that a cleric is first and foremost a citizen. Hence, no matter our neutrality, we must be partisan on the ballot paper.
The Holy See and the State of Palestine are the only non-member states in the United Nations. Archbishop Fortunatus Nwachukwu is the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva. Hence, while the Church continues to condemn the violence and destruction in the Russia-Ukraine war, the Pope or the Holy See has never mentioned Russia or Ukraine and its allies as the aggressor. If the Church supports a party, it immediately loses its neutral status and ability to mediate. This is why individual bishops and the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria always take a neutral stand to the anger of many.
We must realise that there are opposition party members in every congregation who are also free to meet God without being discriminated against. As some state governors in Nigeria owe government workers many months’ salaries and these workers pray that God punishes these governors, those currently benefiting from the current administration are paying tithes and going for thanksgiving every Sunday. Indeed, no one has a monopoly on God and absolutely no one, except in matters of security, has the right to prevent someone from entering the Church to pray.
Many of them are directly or indirectly feeding from PDP and APC and many of them have massively supported Church projects. Therefore, while the Obidient movement swallows their opposition voices or they are simply afraid to speak against the movement, they also need to access their pastors freely without fear of discrimination for being in the opposition.
When Jesus took a neutral position in the passage above, he condemned the greed that led to the conflict. Like Jesus, we know those who will promote good governance and change the course of Nigeria for the better. Let’s vigorously promote the ideas of good governance and equity, which these leaders represent. By doing so, we separate the wheat from the chaff for our flock to choose whilst safeguarding the political dimension of our ecclesiastical authority.
Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾