How Will It Be Heard: My Fear For Christians By Peter Adeiza Ariko



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Among the Ebiras there is a maxim that says amevaawuo. A direct translation of this is ‘how will it be heard’. It looks so simple in the surface but a keen look will immediately suggest that it is essentially an expression that embodies many values and virtues, or put differently, it is a web that connects salient values and virtues. In this very expression, truth is a stakeholder; prudence is a monitor; honesty, sincerity, transparency, and openness, serve as irreplaceable pillars. In very succinct terms, it is the umbrella of all virtues and the fertile ground for values to thrive. It is quite pertinent to assert that this very dictum (how will it be heard) denotes moral integrity as well it confers positive moral conduct. In fact it is a morale booster entrenched in attitude; the attitude of the noble. Self-esteem rests on its cushion.
As a social being, this dictum helps us in our relationship with those around usbecause it links the “I” with the “thou.” The question of how will it be heard surpasses the individualistic world wherein relativism dictates the morality of an action. Such that one may say even if I go about naked I own myself and therefore I can do whatever pleases me. But the one that possesses amevaawuo (how will be heard)will always thrive to consider others around him/her in every action either in secret or in the open.
Furthermore, with this maxim, having known that you are a part in a whole, he or she conscientiously moderates his/her action for fear that it will choke the collective bond. By way of caution, it becomes engraved in our consciousness that whatever action we take has effect on others either directly or indirectly. Thus amevaawuo (how will it be heard) has a communal connotation as against the world of I and I alone. In essence, it suffices to say that this maxim is at the heart of one’s identity. It could be family identity, clannish identity or national identity.It also borders on vocational/professional identity. It is also a pointer to one’s belief, faith, ideology and even one’s age in life. To be precise, it has a lot to do with one’s personal or collective image. To say it all, it engenders a deep sense of shame. It endows us with the ability to make the right choice of action at the right time.
Having elucidated so much on the meaning of this maxim, let us now consider the application. It is worthy of note that such a recommended guide of action can be applied positively or negatively.
From the positive point of view, in the book of Daniel 3:16-18, we saw the uncommon effrontery with which the three young men (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) refused to bow in worship to the god of Nebuchadnezzar. Yes they knew who they are and what they stand to represent as it has to do with their identity, faith and belief. And with ‘how will it be heard’ in their mind, they chose to die even if their God will not save them. St. Polycarp is definitely a glittering example. When confronted with the choice of apostasy so as to evade the cruelty of martyrdom, he said “I have been a servant of Christ for eighty-six years and no evil has come near me; how can I now speak against my king who has saved me?” From a broader perspective, the Israelites demonstrated their unreserved patriotism to their homeland when they were held captive in Babylon. In their religious alarm they said “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!” (Psalm 137:4-6).
Care should be taken so as not to mistake this maxim for what it is not. It is neither at the service of pride nor is it a tool for pretenders. It will not serve as alibi for Herod the Great who chose to massacre all the innocent infants in the land of Bethlehem and its environs just for the fear of ‘how will it be heard’ that he was dethroned by an infant king (cf. Matthew 2:16).Simultaneously, it is not at pal with the pride of Herod the Tetrarch (Antipas) who in his deadly pride prefers to behead John the Baptist than for the people to hear that he could not fulfill the demands of his imprudent promises (cf. Matthew 14:9-10). In this case, love and human sympathy have been sacrificed on the altar of self-ego. In fact, it is certainly not pivotal to the cruelty cum pride of vile dictators (like Adolf Hitler) who will prefer to commit suicide than for it to be heard that they were killed in battle.
Such a maxim is not in any way a canopy for pretenders who are saints in one end but are better off as instruments of the devil in their real self. They have become unredeemable prisoners of themselves. In their own case, instead of how will it be heard, they concern themselves with how should their actions not be heard. They cover the real thing and showcase the shadow of who and what they really are.
In the prime, is it not the case that such a celebrated maxim is becoming an abandoned treasure in our society today? Indeed without gainsaying the fact,it is seemingly defeated and discarded in a decadent society where the depraved are extolled and the virtuous are victimized and sidelined. ‘How will it be heard’ is a forgotten ideal in a society like ours that derives immeasurable delight in compensating evil but on the other hand, vehemently humiliates the good. So it is ina society that exonerates the guilty but on the contrary, in utmost pleasure, sentences or subjects the just to scorn. Here comes the reason for my fear. I am afraid for my fellow Christians who are entrapped in a world where pleasure, position, power, money, mutual suspicion and betrayal, and the like hold sway. I am afraid for my beloved brothers and sisters who live in a world of shamelessness, a world that is less concerned with how it will be heard.
A very critical observation of our society today will reveal that it is purely a shameless society. It is a society in which humans have converged to murder shame. And after the massacre of shame, injustice announces the intended death of justice, nudity/pornography celebrates the expected extinction of modesty and decency, corruption jubilates over the seeming annihilation of transparency and accountability, moral depravity and its ingredients trumpet the shocking suffocation of purity and chastity.
Of what use is shame to a drunk? We have sadly becomeso drunk with passion for money, craze for power and position. So ensnared are we in the riddle of sexual pervasion that we have lost the sense of shame. We have wedded human frailty and shamelessness in a marriage that leads to unredeemable disaster and endless sorrow. As in the case of the two elders in the Susanna episode, who when overtaken by unbridled passion and shamelessness connived to condemn the chaste Susanna to death (cf. Daniel 13:1-64). Anyway they got a handsome reward. This is so much unlike Adam and Eve who knew shame even in their nakedness. However, in our own case, we have parted ways with shame even in our abominable deeds. What should have been a cause for shame has suddenly become our pride and glory.In second Maccabees, Eleazar in a heroic fashion demonstrated the ideal attitude of an elder. When persuaded to pretend to eat the forbidden meat so as to escape death he said: “such pretence is not worthy of our time of life… by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age…” (2 Maccabees 6:24 and 27).
As Christians, there is a great need for us to protect our identity and hold it with high esteem. The name “Christian” meaning Christ-like is a hard earned name that is born out of the witness of the believers in Antioch (cf. Acts. 11:26). Let us not think that it was gotten out of the blue. No! It was an enviable identity that was etched in a spirit-filled life, a household name of people of noble character who certainly are not associated with corrupt dealings. As a matter of fact, it was a name with a difference. As such, the name “Christian” is a heritage that our faith has bequeathed to us.
The burning question is: how do we relate with this name “Christian”? Isn’t it the case that many of us have abused it? Has it not suffered in the hands of its hijackers who use it as a mere mask regardless of their status in churches? Do many of us feel obliged to protect this name from being misused? Have many of us not lost the sense of identity as Christians? Here again is the cause of my fear. That many of us do not border to think of how it will be heard that a Christian like me is into this act, that many of us have been misled to think that being a Christian is merely a social status, that there are a good lot of people who do not consider ita responsibility to defend and uphold our identity as Christians. To this crop of Christians Mahatma Gandhi will say “I hate you Christians but I love your Christ”. To worsen it all Jesus will tell them “depart from me I do not know you” (Luke 13:27).This is the corollary of lip service, hypocrisy, pretence, crisis of identity and the like.
Gone are the days we easily forget who we are. This reflection is geared towards stinging us into consciousness. The evil days of forgetfulness should be jettisoned. Let us always have it at the back of our mind who we are and what we stand for. Christianity goes beyond mere name; it is a way of life. If we must bear the name, we must live the life. And if we must live the life, we must always be conscious of what we stand for.


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