As Jamaica comes to grips with its tough economic challenges, president of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), Luke Shaw, has called on the church to stop browbeating the government and has instead charged Christians to live lives of integrity that would help to transform the nation.
"What a wonderful thing, if the churches instead of browbeating the government, set the example and show the government how to run things. We have the mind of Christ, we have lands, idle lands, one hand cannot clap," he told the large gathering of worshippers who packed the National Arena for yesterday's staging of the JBU 163rd general assembly.
"Today, I will not bash the government. I will not bash politicians, but I want to speak to the people who are supposed to be people of peace, because if we live like the people of peace, we would not need to come to a place like this to talk about the ills of Jamaica," he said.
Speaking under the theme, "A People of Peace", the Baptist head said that people of peace are those that are empowered by God to do things that entertain the presence of God in their lives.
"People of peace are a people who with the power of God's spirit rise above circumstances. We don't walk with our heads complaining. The economy may be bad, but God's economy is not," he said.
The pastor said that now was an opportune time for people to show what they are really made of, and for churches to unite instead of creating divisions.
"We need to mash down this dolly house where I am trying to build empire just like Rome with my little congregation, while people are suffering and hurting and I will steal your sheep to build my congregation before I go to look for my own sheep. The street people, the young boys, before I go to look for them, I would rather come and steal one of those who is properly clothed and tell them you are in the wrong church," he said.
Shaw noted that there have been many questions this past few days about what the church is doing. Some, he said, had argued that the church is too silent; given the problems the world is currently grappling with. The Jamaica Gvernment recently implemented a National Debt Exchange to enable the country to secure a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The move elicited harsh critisms from several sectors of the society, while some argued that it was necessary.
"Listen, the church is not a magic wand and the people of peace are not people who take God for granted and ask God to do things when there is no integrity. Anybody who wants to know what the Church is doing, take the church out of Jamaica. With all the critisms we have of ourselves, take the church out of Jamaica and see what happens. By whatever label we call ourselves, God uses us," the pastor stated.
He asked that churches continue to help to build the economy and empower the community by eating what is produced in the country, eliminating corruption and taking care of the vulnerable. He called upon women who protect criminals to stop doing so, and cautioned them against abusing and victimising their children.
"You in your own way, stop taking the bribe, stop bribing the policemen and women, stop going to the offices and paying under the counter. In the name of Jesus Christ, I say stop," he told the vast congregation.
"Don't blame the IMF. The IMF is not our problem, we are the problem. Do you know that we are a very smart and intelligent set of people? If a country can spend 55 cents out of every dollar and still devise a plan to get more money, we must be smart. I am saying, we need to decide our priorities and that is what IMF is saying to us," he added.