Women walking down a dusty road. Their children behind them dressed in beautiful cloths heading to a building they call a church. It is made of tin Iron with a mark of a cross on its pinnacle. They walk for miles to go to this building every Sunday. Yet despite this walk and dedication, the kids were kicked out of school for luck of school fees, they had ‘niron’ tea cause they could not afford milk, and their eyes are red from sitting around a fire of wet wood waiting for the mother to songa ugali for the fourteenth time this week.
The men of the house have no job, they wake up and go to the shops to sit and watch the day go by. Their cloths are torn and but have patches of many colors. Life is hard for these villagers. Many wait for the start of the campaign season. At least some wealthy politician will pass by and be generous with 500 shillings that would mark a salary for the year. Therefore their wives struggle to sell the sukuma wiki growing in the small shamba. Or they go out to look for vibarua around the village. It is this ‘work’ that buys the unga and the sugar. Yet before they go to bed, they pray to the risen Christ with gratitude.
Looking out from a human perspective, it seems that the cross does not have any benefits to the believer. For that which befalls the non-believer is a constant friend for the believer. Not just in the villages of Africa, but in what is called ‘first world.’ The struggle to pay bills, and the constant wish to have enough to not go from paycheck to paycheck is indeed an experience both for the believer and the non-believer. One then must wonder, is the cross a benefit only within the mystery of eternity or does it have its benefits in life?
To the Pentecostal prosperity gospel preacher, the cross is all inclusively beneficial. It not only promises the mystery of eternity with Christ, but it also gives abundance of material things in life. That the believer in coming to Christ opens a door to financial bliss that is un-imaginable: A land Rover, a Mercedes, a house in Runda Estate, a bank account that never goes below 100000 shillings, a trophy wife, and children from another planet who are perfect. Yet those congregants who sit at the pews every Sunday wake up at six in the morning to ride a border border. Then they walk a while to get to their offices to sit at a desk for hours. After this, they experience the misery of trying to pay the bills with the salary.
It is as if those who promise these benefits have read only one part of biblical history. The Christ to whom Easter is celebrated advised the believer to, “carry your own Cross and follow me.” Then the man who was anointed by the Christ to guide Church Doctrine wrote, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2 Corinthians 11:1ff
If there was a man who deserved the luxury and benefit of the cross on earth, it was the apostle Paul. Yet in his life he is rejoicing, not in the material wealth as the main benefit of the cross, (in fact he never claims that material wealth is part of the benefit), rather, he rejoices that he has come to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of participating in his suffering, becoming like him in His death. Philippians 3:10. The cross must be taught within the whole biblical context. Failure to do that lies to humanity that becoming a believer is becoming wealthy!
For me, the benefit of the cross that are absolute for the believer, and are in line with the cross are, eternal domain with Christ, the dwelling of the Spirit of God, and the promise in Hebrews chapter 1:14. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” This for the woman walking to church with her children, the man struggling to find a job, and the worker who cannot make ends meet is reason to rejoice in the Cross where Christ died as a sacrifice for the sin of the world!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD)
CEO Bibilia Broadcasting Network BBNTV Kenya (EMG)