We often pride ourselves as people who are intelligent, rational and always able to link cause and effect. We are better than animals; we think before we do and have reasons why we do what we do. I am afraid to say that this is often a wish than a reality. The fact of the matter is most of what we do is out of our control. We often find ourselves doing things because that is what we have been doing all along. Maybe I should have entitled this, the Power of Habits, for the purpose of this article, we will use the terms interchangeably. If one cannot say “no” to a self sabotaging habit, then he or she is addicted. I must admit, though, that addiction carries more of a negative connotation than habit. There are good habits which are to be cultivated but one hardly hears of good addiction. Nevertheless we will use addiction to drive the point home.
A person who is addicted to drugs needs intervention and systematic rehabilitation. Powerful arguments and facts on the danger of drugs are good but powerless in helping such a person. It should be remembered that it is not the force of such arguments that often leads one to such behavior. One starts off by experimenting and ends up hooked. In reality this is exactly what happens in life. We learn through experiment and observation. We may choose what clothes to wear when going to the mall but the choice is not whether we should wear clothes or not. No amount of arguments will convince us to do otherwise. One could argue that religion is like clothes, one may choose how to be religious but not whether he or she should be religious.
Today of course this assertion can be challenged. We choose religions or choose to be religious. We go to church or choose not to go. We pray or choose not to pray. In traditional African cultures people are born into their cultures. They do not go to church to practice religion, everything they do is linked to religion and the gods are everywhere. One of the grave mistakes that Christian missionaries did was to think that arguments and few Biblical texts would destroy the African worldview. We have come to realize that in spite of what many Africans may profess, their religious and African soul remains in tact. Such people need more than just powerful arguments, they need to witness and experience something more powerful than what they are used to.
This is where most Christians fail, we know the reasons why we are Christians but we have not experienced what it means to be a Christian. We know of the power but it has not yet delivered us. When Africans looked for a god that would deliver them from the severe drought, a god who would give them rain, missionaries introduced a god who will one day come and take them to heaven. Yes they may have taken interest to such a “god” but they still needed one that relieves them from the drought. Missionaries like Van der Kemp were challenged to ask their gods for rain and when it rained, one could see the willingness from the Africans to give respect not only to Van der Kemp but to his god as well. That is how many Africans were led to Christ. People are not interested in what God can do but in what He does to see what He can do.
I am convinced that one of the breakthroughs we can make when it comes to young people is to lead them to an experience with Christ. Let them taste for themselves what it means to be freed from sin. The secular mind is looking for an experience, and most are turning to the Eastern Religions for this. The Bible presents Christianity as a walk with God, something unique and more intimate than what is generally understood in African Religions. God is a friend, one who loves us and is willing to lay down His life for us. He is involved in our personal lives and is interested in the challenges we face today. He says, ask and it shall be given, not when I come with the clouds of heaven but now, today.
“If the Son shall make you free… that is what we should focus on, not mere arguments and intellectualizing but leading people to experience this freedom. If they experience this, they will be hooked, addicted and no argument will be able to convince them otherwise. From here we will tell the world of the joy that we have found and not just mere theories about joy that we ourselves have not experienced.