In Life We Need The Brutality Of A Policeman
I have just read that Patience Osafo, the woman who was brutalised by a policeman, has been compensated with a brand new house and an undisclosed sum of money. The house was given to her by the management of Midland Savings and Loans Company Ltd. The offer has been accepted by her lawyer as a 'generous' act that could quell legal battles. Many have satirised the whole issue, by saying that they are praying for their policeman to brutalise them. In this piece, I use 'the brutality of a policeman' as a metaphor for suffering, evil, and pain as an entry point to reflect over the complexity of suffering.
It is true that, in life, you may not want your policeman to brutalise you, but to excel you need the brutality of a policeman. We all must be brutalised at some point in life to excel. Success comes to us only after we have endured the pain and toils in the world. This is a tacit endorsement of the Protestant axiom: 'No pain, no gain'.
Many have questioned the relevance of God in the midst of trials and pain. Many supposed Christians have left the Church because their lives were punctuated with pain at some time. Many have ridiculed the God of Christianity, because they think He is useless in the face of pain and suffering. Others have also persecuted Christians because they think Christians are the cause of pain in the world. Christianity is also bastardised because many speculators, including Marxists, think Christianity numbs people's consciousness, and makes them susceptible to exploitation (in this sense, Christianity is believed to cause suffering).
While the existential reality of pain has made God unpopular among some people, it is also true that the reality of suffering, known in theological circle as theodicy, is one of the difficult theological issues many have struggled with. Indeed, until Christ returns, we may continue to split hairs over the mutual existence of a good God and evil. Philosophers have also tested their minds over the reality of suffering. The Greek philosopher, Epicurus, concluded his syllogism that, the existence of suffering means God is either impotent or malevolent.
Some Eastern mystics, including Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, whose teachings provided the foundation of Buddhism, had a peculiar teaching on suffering. He argued that suffering is caused by selfish cravings. According to him, we suffer because we crave for things we cannot have, and since we cannot have all the things we crave for, we suffer for it. It is important to note that Siddhartha became buddha, the enlightened one, because of the supposed answer he had for suffering. The solution to suffering, according to Buddha, is to diligently follow the Eight-fold Path - our actions and inactions must be right!
In Hinduism, which was the initial religion of Buddha, we are told that suffering is as a result of ignorance, which causes us to accumulate bad karma. And since ignorance is almost fatalistic, we keep reinventing the wheel of bad karma and in the process remain in suffering. To overcome suffering, one must gain knowledge, through the practice of multiple yogas inter alia Karma yoga. In both Buddhism and Hinduism, knowledge is a conditio sine qua non to attaining moksha.
Some Charismatic Christians in Ghana have a theology of duality that attributes evil to Satan and good to God. This erroneous theology has been exaggerated to the extent that in the psycho-cognitive of some Charismatic Christians, there is a cosmic pugilism between God and Satan. God is reduced to a creator who is fighting another creator. Satan in the theology of some Charismatic Christians is no more a creature, but a creator. In this sense, Charismatics and 'traditionalists' share the same belief that we must attribute evil to the working of some capricious, malevolent spirit, who is locked in a mortal battle with God. Among 'traditionalists' and some Charismatic Christians, there is a mystic causality between materiality and spirituality. This explains the penchant of 'traditionalists' and some Charismatics to attributing everything to witchcraft. This witchcraft mentality has given birth to a new field of study in theology: 'Witchdemonology' in Ghana.
Among other religious groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), a kind of deism is developed to explain away and excuse God of evil. In the theology of JWs, the present world is under the control of Satan, and it is he who determines what happens within, particularly evil. Members of Christian Science, which was founded by Mary Eddy Barker, also believe that suffering; evil is nothing bad an illusion.
Calvinists, on the other hand, believe that God is sovereign over everything, including evil. Calvinists hold a priori theology that sees God as a creator over everything and everything else being a creature. God has control over evil. He allows evil for His own good. Calvinists do not think that evil or misfortune happens by chance. They hold the belief that evil happens to fulfil the eternal will of God. They also believe that death was conquered through the vicarious death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ, the only saviour of the elect. I am inclined to Calvinistic theology about evil. The case of the Patience Osafo gives credence to Calvinistic teaching that God redeems evil for His own good.
As I have already said, we all experience evil at some point in life. Jesus also experienced suffering. He felt the pain of suffering. He was hungry at some point. He cried because His friend died. He suffered emotional agony. He was despised. His siblings rejected him. His disciples deserted Him. His death, known in theology as deicide, marked the climax of evil. But, because He went through pain, the Bible says He is able to sympathise with us when we go through suffering.
Throughout the Bible, what we learn as axiomatic is that all those chosen by God had to go through the baptism of fire before they had their blessings. The early Apostles of the Christian faith were killed in grotesque ways. And yet, we are told in church history that the blood of the martyres (the Apostles and other first century Christians) is the seed of the Church. In the contemporary world, many Christians suffer persecutions because they profess Christ. In some countries, it is tabooed to preach Christ. It is also haram to convert to Christianity. There is no freedom of religion, when it comes to people coming to Christ. But, in all of this, the Church is marching on! Christ is still gathering His saints all over the world.
I don't think this woman would have ever thought that her destiny would change in a very bizarre manner. She never thought that through the brutality of a policeman a new script was going to be written on the slate of her destiny. She has not just become popular, but she has earned the sympathy of many Ghanaians. Her story has changed. If she is diligent enough, she would never taste poverty again. She can now say with Joseph in her own way that, 'The policeman meant it for evil, but God meant if for my redemption from the enslavement poverty.'
Could it be that God responded to her prayer through the brutality of a policeman? Indeed, the Bible is apt: 'All things work together for our good.' God is able to redeem bad things in our life for our good. Sometimes, we need a bit of patience; sometimes, we need to trust more; sometimes we need to pray more, and sometimes, we need to watch and pray. Sometimes, we just have to take it cool. Sometimes, we don't have to blame ourselves so much. Sometimes, we just have to work a bit harder. God is always redeeming us in His own ways. We may not understand how He redeems the pain in our lives, but we can be sure that He is always in the redemptive mission.
From the narrative of Patience Osafo, we can say that we never learn in our moment of felicity, we learn in our moment of pain. And to summarise Clive Staple Lewis, 'In our moments of felicity, God whispers to us, but He shouts to us in our moments of pain. For pain, is God's megaphone used to arouse a world that is deaf.' In life, none of us learns through our moments of happiness. We all learn through pain. We learn to do the right thing, only when we experienced doing the wrong thing.
I pray that the Lord will give us the grace and fortitude to withstand the brutality of a policeman. We all need such brutality to reach our destiny. But we must not despair, but Christ is always victorious.
I just finished reading John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress'. The book is such a masterpiece that I humbly recommend it to all Christians. I am happy to send a free electronic copy of it to all who may inbox me their email.
Charles Prempeh ([email protected]), African University College of Communications, Accra
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