They were wearing colourful clothes with jewels, shoes and handbags to match. They were chatting away, walking towards my direction. I was almost late for church on this fateful Sunday morning, but I reduced my pace a bit to admire these ladies. For they looked gorgeous, with such gracious outlook, as though they were angels dropped from heaven. I was beginning to assume kinship with them because it was obvious our destination was the same, when all of a sudden it occurred to me that there may exist among these ladies, the night clubers I saw while returning from my late night call last Friday; or the smokers I saw sitting at a popular bar in my area on that fateful Thursday evening, giggling with friends like they had just won a jackpot, with their canines and molars working on the pork meat in their mouth, been washed down with intermittent gulps of alcohol; or the patient I clerked in my clinic, whose religion was Christianity, and marital status, single, but had aborted three times in the last two years, and was still sexually active.
As I walked pass them, still lost in thoughts, the Holy Spirit whispered this to me, “Many of my children massage their consciences with church.” “Lord, what do you mean by that?” I asked. Then He went on to expatiate.
Our country Nigeria is ladened with a lot of religious people whose greetings on Sundays are usually, “Happy Sunday ma! Happy Sunday sir!” Youths, who after Sunday services would start taking cool selfies with their church clothes and place these pictures on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp status, with captions and hastags reading, “Sunday vibes”. Yet, these same people would step out the next day, and live their Mondays through Saturdays, as though God didn’t exist.
Do not be surprised that the politician that illegally carts away with task payers money on Monday, is the usher that stands at the door of the church on Sunday; or the doctor that performs abortion on Wednesday is the head of the Sunday school in his church; or the police officer that takes bribe on public holidays, extorting and framing innocent car owners, is the church’s accountant; or the employer who has not paid his staffs for the last six months is the parish pastor of that popular denomination. The paradoxical comparison been endless.
During the week, their consciences scream as they live contrary to God’s will. Some would try to shut it up by confessing their righteousness in Christ, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” they would quote. Others would try to quieten this judge-of-right-or-wrong by alluding to the fact that everyone sins, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” they would quote. But for many, their gimmicks doesn’t work. Their consciences still scream.
But when they wake on Sunday mornings, Oh what a glorious day! They clad themselves with the best of their attires, and paint their faces with all forms of disfigurement, because the day to appease their consciences has come. As they walk through the church doors, they would begin to savor God’s presence, relishing in the soothing feeling it gives their souls. As the opening prayer begins, they would immediately go down on their knees asking for forgiveness. An onlooker will think they are the most pious. They would dance hard during the praise, lift up ‘holy’ hands during the worship, shake their heads vigorously during the prayers, all in a bid to appease their consciences. “Ride on pastor!” some will yell during the message. Others will dash to the altar and drop offerings at the feet of the man of God during the sermon. Some may even make distracting and dramatic displays, like lifting their plastic chairs and screaming “Yeah! Yeah! Preach it sir! Glory! Word! Shalabababa. . .”, all in a bid to quieten their consciences and appease their church minds. But once the graces and the closing rituals are said, they’re out the church door and back to their normal godless lives.
“Who are they deceiving?” the Spirit of God said to me. Then He reminded me of David’s prayer in Psalms, the fifty-one verse, the seventeenth chapter, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart O God you will not despise.” The Message Bible renders the preceding verse thus, “Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. . .” Then The Living Bible puts that same verse seventeen thus, “It is a broken spirit you want – remorse and penitence.”
So, if you’re in any way guilty of what the Holy Spirit said to me, please repent. And stop massaging your conscience with church.