On this day, over 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ was crucified and died on the cross. His death served as penalty for the sins of mankind, and for Christians, this day (Good Friday) stands to serve as a cornerstone of their faith.
Whereas Christians today still share basic convictions worldwide, a lot has seemingly changed. Sacred traditions such as baptism and penance have evolved; selective interpretation of Bible verses has triggered disagreements, whereas greed and contempt is driving the church apart.
Indeed, the church today has been subject to a number of controversies that mostly centre on religious leaders who mislead and extort their followers.
A few years ago, a South African preacher was mocked online after reportedly charging followers to view his photos of ‘heaven.’ The self-proclaimed prophet claimed to have visited heaven and took pictures with his smartphone; he then tried to sell the ‘heavenly pictures’ for $360 (roughly Rwf 330,000) to his followers, something that many deemed satirical.
This, and a number of other ‘shady’ practices, are prompting many to wonder if Jesus would approve of how Christianity is practised today.
Alex Mugisha is sceptical on whether Jesus would be proud of how the church is practising Christianity today because of the way church leaders and their followers are altering Christian values.
He points out the case with many churches he thinks are only after money instead of preaching the word of God.
He also cites the case of baptism which was done in rivers, noting that nowadays, Christians just choose to carry out the ritual from swimming pools.
“This is what is perplexing because if the world decides to have their versions of Christianity then the conviction will lose its original meaning,” he notes.
Mugisha also mentions the fact that so many versions of the Bible are in place now, highlighting that this only causes confusion among believers.
“There are so many Bible versions, for example, the New King James Version, the New International Version and many others. Some of them have had scriptures removed and the language has been altered. What can one make of this all? It is all confusing,” he says.
Mathias Safari, a non-believer, says that today, everyone has their own perception of Christianity, and the problem is that pastors forcefully want Christians to follow their teachings.
This baffles him because he reasons that Christians should not be forced to believe in God a certain way.
He goes onto explain how the Bible indicates that everyone can talk to God yet some pastors want people to believe that it is through them that one can get God’s blessings.
“This makes most believers depend on fellow human beings for divine assistance. All Christians should have a clear mind-set and know that there is no righteous person to plead for their wrong doings and instead, talk to the creator,” Safari says.
Christianity is more than outward norms
Crème Kantengwa, a believer, says Christianity today is diverse in all its forms—different religions believing in one God but practising differently.
She thinks Jesus would approve of the non-religious Christians that choose to have a personal relationship with God because that’s what brought Him in the first place, to remove every barrier between God and man.
“There are signs to this, such as the tearing of the veil in the temple when he breathed his last on the cross, as well as resurrecting from the dead.”
She is, hence, against religious traditions because to her, they instil a tedium on how people should relate to God, which shouldn’t be the case.
“Religion dictates what Christians should believe and how they should walk with God, which is not what Jesus died for.”
Maurice Twahirwa, a believer, is so hopeful about the second coming of Jesus Christ, this is why he says that while the world moves on with a variety of evolutions, as Christians, they should not be affected because they believe in God (and God doesn’t change).
Since the Bible doesn’t change, Christians should, therefore, not be shaken by the evolutions.
He says Christians can adapt to societal changes and still respect Christian values, yet he observes that this isn’t always the case.
“For example, people are so addicted to social media that even during church, they are stuck on their phones. This is why people now prefer having Bible apps in their phones rather than hard copies that were used before.”
Twahirwa reminds all Christians of a scripture in Timothy 3:16 which says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. And another one in Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
What do religious leaders make of this?
Pastor Maurice Rukimbira highlights social media as one of the factors playing part in the spreading of wrong or misleading messages to Christians.
He says this has a negative impact as it leads to unnecessary debates, doubting of the scriptures, strange behaviours from Christians, among others.
“However, as Christians, we should all recall what is written in the Bible—that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6),” he says.
Rukimbira is of the view that church leaders should invest in a systematic discipleship that will enable followers discern what is right and wrong.
According to Pastor Charles Niyongere of Anglican Church Rwamagana, change is inevitable and Christians should know that church is part of society, thus prone to being affected by the continuous evolution.
He is, however, keen on calling Christians to be wise enough to carefully adapt with the world’s development without compromising the scriptures.
“These are not matters to shake a true Christian’s belief,” he says.
Niyongere is also of the view that the church should put more focus on the young generation since they are the ones being raised in the digital era.
“This will ensure that they grow up with the true gospel, just like the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even
when he is old he will not depart from it,” he says.