I love Tennis and the synthetic and natural grass courts at North Beach Tennis Club have become my favourite courts. Right at the intersection of Kitchener and Wilberforce Streets, as one turns to get to the club is a big building belonging to Our Lady of Grace Primary School. There is nothing special about the building itself except for the motto of the school which is boldly printed on its walls. Each time I pass this spot, the words of the motto cause me to think. Deeply.
Crafting a school motto is a difficult process, its akin to the work done by companies to establish their vision. A lot of thoughts, debates and considerations are put into the process because of its singular importance in conveying to the public what the organization stands for.
There are notable school mottos that stand out. Iṣẹ́ ni ògún ìṣẹ́ is the school motto of the Polytechnic Ibadan while the legendary Wesley College went for Bi eniti nse iranse. There are others like Oniwaya’s “Not for school but for life”, Unilag’s “In deed and in truth”, Scotch College’s “Preparing boys for life” and my favourite of all, that of Lagelu Grammar School’s – Semper Optimum, meaning always the best.
Our Lady of Grace did not tow the path of these schools. It carved a different one for herself, focusing on the spiritual. Its motto is simply “Faith and Wisdom.” For me, there is a conundrum here – can wisdom comingle with faith? If the “and” is not in the phrase, I will bother less but, as it is, I ruminate on what must have been going on in the cerebral cortexes of those that crafted these words? One could be pardoned to dismiss this as the work of uninformed minds had it been something else apart from a school motto. The words of a school motto, however, are never chosen lightly.
Whereas wisdom is the application of knowledge, faith requires more. It is an unwavering belief usually running contrary to what is physically evident before us. Hence, faith repudiates wisdom because it is an active trust in God, no matter what our sights and circumstances dictate to the contrary. If so, how can they become equally yoked together as in the school motto – Faith and Wisdom?
The Christian calling is one of faith – it is impossible to please God without faith, says the scriptures. In fact, we are taught that faith cannot operate where human wisdom is at play. An accepted notion in Christianity is that the wisdom of man is foolishness before God.
I am not a theologian, but I am very interested in these concepts – of wisdom and faith, given what our men of God are teaching us to do and be. First, they are calling us to be Christ like, after all that is the true definition of Christianity. Second and equally important, we are being asked to have faith in God. The call to do these should not elicit concern from anyone had it been that they put into action what they preach. As humans, with their failings, they make it seem that faith is really a concept for the masses while Wisdom is for the clergy and their ilk’s. How did I come to this conclusion?
I worship at Victory Life pastored by Margaret Court, a woman of unparalleled accomplishments in Tennis. I love the church and the diversity of worshippers is akin to being in heaven. Sitting a few rows to the front, I watch, predictably every service, as Pastor Margaret walks to take her seat while followed closely by a body guard. It is a scene that I have seen in other churches as well so this is not a practise unique to Pastor Margaret.
It is true that there is a level of persecution against Margaret for the views she holds, and some will argue that the need for a security attaché is justified on that ground. I don’t dispute this; this is wisdom at work. What is challenging is when the same body-guarded woman of God calls on us to have faith in God as Jesus commands in Mk 11:22 yet by her own action she isn’t showing faith in Matt 10:28-31!
A few years ago, I made a trip to the sleepy town of Odogbolu to attend the burial of the father of a friend. I drove unaccompanied and without any ill incident all the way there. Shortly after I arrived, Pastor Idowu Iluyomade of the City of David showed up. Leading his car to the venue was a Police vehicle filled with armed policemen and another following behind the car in which he was seated in similar fashion. The same Pastor Margaret issue was at play but his was definitely on steroids. The Pope presents another example, as he goes around in a popemobile with bulletproof glass walls to enclose himself. Following the 1981 Pope John Paul II assassination attempt, one will struggle to fault the Pope on the wisdom behind this.
Reflecting carefully on this, one should ask if Christ would have behaved in manners similar to these leaders of faith? The evidence says No. During the last supper, Jesus foretold his death to his disciples, he knew exactly what was going to happen to him. Yet, he stood by his words in Matt 10:28-30 and did not summon any protective force around him to withstand his being arrested in Gethsemane. Could our pastors take a cue from that or the call to be Christ-like is no longer applicable?
In AD58 Apostle Paul, was warned by Agabus of what would happen to him if he went ahead to Jerusalem. Paul was more convinced of the need to preach Christ in Jerusalem than dying. He wasn’t deterred and would neither cancel his trip nor seek Roman protection (after all he was a Roman citizen)
ahead of his arriving in Jerusalem. He probably knew something that we don’t know, little wonder he boldly say in Phil 1:21 that “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I doubt if any of our faith leaders, were they in Paul’s position, would have gone down to Jerusalem and if they did, wouldn’t they have done so with a battalion of armed guards? To me, it becomes a case of everyone wanting to go to heaven but no one wanting to die. How then do we get there?
It bothers me that despite our knowing the heart of Christ is in having the gospel preached to the uttermost end of the world, only very few men have claimed having been called by the same Christ to go to our conflict zones like Sambisa. Everyone seems to be called to propagate the gospel in the cities. I ask, is Christ really doing the calling here or our supposedly called folks are applying wisdom to their callings? Dying is not a gain to them or that piece of Paul’s letter should be safely ignored?
It is refreshing and relieving to listen to Bishop Benjamin Kwashi while talking about The Dynamite Power of the Gospel that the gospel is worth living for and dying for. This is from the mouth of someone who had experienced persecution firsthand. He had been beaten, tortured and the family subjected to unprintable acts that will make many faint-hearted amongst us to cry. Wisdom expects that he should flee his duty post while Faith commands he shouldn’t. He has chosen the path of faith, proclaiming that he will continue doing the Lord’s bidding till death comes.
So, the big question is, when do we apply wisdom and when do we shift gear to faith. I will attempt an answer, one that is not scriptural but entirely what I am guided by. I would apply wisdom in any area of life where human efforts can change outcomes and apply faith where it can’t. Basically, I am saying I will resort to self-help where it works and shift to faith where it won’t. Now I speak for myself and not for faith leaders.
For faith leaders, the same standard should apply in as much as they stop castigating followers for resorting to using prescribed medicines in curing their infirmities as sign of little faith or preaching prosperity through giving rather than through hard work. You can’t be body-guarded and tell me to trust in God for my sustenance when you don’t trust in him for your safety! Little wonder we are not seeing miracles in the church as experienced by the Apostles of old.