On snakes, walking over people and buying powers...


A few days' ago I was asked to comment on those who walk over people or make them eat snakes during their gatherings. Honestly, it is not easy to comment on what others are doing without having an opportunity to hear from them what is being done and why; but I felt it was a good opportunity for me to reflect on the criteria that helps us identify what can be considered "Christian".

The point of reference will always be Jesus, our way, truth and life (John 14: 6) 

1. One of the things that is clear to me is that Jesus' words and actions always lifted up people, always raised the dignity every person, never humiliated them.

At the beginning of his ministry, the Gospel of Luke tells us that on a Sabbath he went into the synagogue and stood to read. He was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah where it is written: "The spirit of the Lord is on me for he has anointed me, to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free..." (Luke 4: 16 - 19).

His actions followed that. They are familiar to us all: he healed the sick, raised the dead, freed from evil spirits, consoled those crying, fed the hungry, care for them as they were like sheep without a shepherd... He never humiliated people. He humbled himself as Paul says in the letter to the Philippians (Phil 2: 5 - 8)

2. Another element is that he never used any special power to make people do his will. It is not, in fact, the way God works. We would love a God who would solve all the problems with his power. In the gospels we constantly see Jesus calling the people to conversion, inviting them to follow him but never "forcing them", never using "special technics" to make them do whatever he wanted. One clear example could be the man Jesus invited to sell everything he owned, distribute the money to the poor, and then follow him (Luke 18:22). He could not. Jesus never forced him or anyone else.

He never forced anyone and asked the apostles to understand that they were called to follow his own example: "You know that among the gentiles the rulers lord it over them and great men make their authority felt. Among you this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your salve, just as the Son of man came not to be served by to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:24 - 28)

For me these are two very important “criteria” to identify today what can be considered "Christian".


3. Another question that keeps coming regards the buying of powers to make miracles. I believe it is very helpful to meditate on the passage of "Simon the magician" (Acts 8: 9 - 24).

Having seen the Holy Spirit being given through the laying on of the apostles' hands, Simon offered them money to be able to do the same. Peter got very angry at that and replied: "May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it for thinking that money could buy what God has given for nothing!".  This made Simon scared and asked them to pray for him "so that none of the things you have spoken about may happen to me".

I believe that, more than anything else, this is a good opportunity for us all to reflect on our Christian identity and help each other discern so as not to be deceived.
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Bishop of the Diocese of Manzini (Swaziland)

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