When an opportunity opened for me to contribute to this Blog, I prayed that God may use me and my fellow contributors as instruments of salvation and harvest for His Kingdom through the thoughts and reflections we share on this platform. I believe contributing to this blog is not only meant for others out there, but also for our own spiritual growth. So, when my mind wouldn’t stop grinding the subject of Christian Chain Mails and questioning what really is Christian about these mails, I knew it was time to openly share my thoughts on the subject.
I have a bit of an experience both as a recipient and as an ‘ex-forwarder’ of such mails. When I started thinking about what it is that I really wanted to share through this article, two particular conversations on this subject, with two Christian friends of mine–Nickie and Audrey came to mind. The conversations occurred on two far apart occasions. In both occasions, I initiated the conversation, my main motive being validation from friends. The sort of validation I was seeking from Nickie was totally different from that which I was seeking from Audrey as you will learn as the article unfolds.
The Christian Chain mails I am referring to are those unsolicited mails with introductions or conclusions like: “Does God come first in your life? If so, stop what you are doing and send to 12 people … watch what He does.” Or “If you love God, and are not ashamed of all the marvellous things he has done for you. Send this to 10 people.” Or “Send this to everybody on your list. You will receive good news tomorrow. Don’t take this as a joke. You can’t know when God is testing your faith.”
Both Nickie and Audrey have been Christians long before I was. On reflection, my conversation with Nickie took place before I became a Christian. Of course I identified with Christianity and had been a church goer at different times in my life depending on the ‘weather conditions of my life.’ But I was not a Christian–period! The conversation with Audrey on the other hand took place some weeks back, after I became a Christian and after I decided to share my thoughts on this Blog. So, I hope my before and after perspectives on this subject will assist someone out there who might be in a similar predicament like I was at some point in my life.
As earlier noted, when I struck a conversation with Nickie regarding Christian chain mails, I was looking for her validation—for her to say ‘Yes, it is perfectly fine to forward such mails.’ I was a recipient and a forwarder–although none of the miracles, signs and wonders promised in these mails ever happened to me. Neither did I become close to God by religiously forwarding them. One thing for sure is that, forwarding these mails always left me with a feeling of guilt–It never felt right, though I could not put my finger on it and stopping seemed to be no option. First, I wanted God to ‘open doors’ for me. So, if all it took was forwarding emails to friends–emails which I did not even have to draft–what did I have to loose? Secondly, I was at a place in my life where I was neither a Christian nor a Non-believer. Simply put, I had no stand! So, I feared that by not forwarding the mails, I would be admitting my status as a non-believer–something I wasn’t ready to acknowledge even if it were true.
So, validation from a trusted Christian friend—whose honest judgement and discernment on many issues– I have come respect and cherish, would have meant the world to me. It would certainly take away the guilt of forwarding these emails. Fortunately or unfortunately for me – whichever way you look at it; the validation I was looking for never came– Not from Nickie! It was a loud, clear, and characteristically unambiguous message. Something like: ‘Oh, those emails? I DELETE THEM.’ I walked away with this clear message from Nickie, but not with the courage to stop. Why? Because I did not know the TRUTH about God that Nickie knew. She fed on the Word of God everyday and I didn’t. So the scare tactics from non-believers, marauding, as followers of Christ could not scare her. On the other hand, I had ‘no leg to stand on.’ I was blind (John 9:25). A classic case of ‘God’s person perishing for lack of knowledge’ (Hosea 4:6). One thing that was clear to me though, was that I could no longer forward those mails to Nickie, and for a while I continued forwarding to the rest of my friends.
When I became a Christian, I started feeding on the Word, and sought to really know and understand God. As a result, I not only attained the courage to DELETE the mails without any ounce of guilt, but I also attained the courage to admit that ‘I was blind but now I see!’ (John 9:25). Finally, I have a stand!
It was while fishing for other perspectives on this subject that in the past few weeks I struck the conversation with Audrey. This time, having already taken a stand, I was seeking a perspective of another Christian before writing this article. She equated those mails to a JOKE and said that they reminded her of a magician who used to occasionally perform at her school when she was a little girl. With here dismissive tone and her unique facial expression which involuntarily appears whenever she addresses something over which she would never loose a millisecond of sleep—she, like Nickie said with finality: I DELETE THEM! While this was no shocker, like during my before salvation status, it meant a lot to me coming from a friend who never shies away from seeking guidance from the Bible. Whenever we have a disagreement about something, she will say to me, Keboitse, let’s search the Bible and see what it says about this subject–then problem solved! Or when my Flesh threatens to rear its head and dominate in the face of adversity, she will be the first one to rhetorically ask: ‘who is the Christian here!’ Once she says that, I know that it is time for me to ‘give up my right to be right’ as John once put it. So, I hope you understand why an opinion of a friend like that would matter to me, especially when writing an article that challenges a common practice out there, including among Christians.
One can draw some useful lessons from my conversations with Nickie and Audrey as well as from the content of these chain mails as follows:
- There is nothing Christian about the so-called Christian chain mails. These mails use a combination of the Word of God, scare tactics, false hope and blatant ignorance of the fact God’s answer to prayers is not induced by forwarding junk mail to a prescribed number of friends within a specified number of seconds, minutes or days. God is God. He is not a magic man. He answers prayers according to His Will and at a time which He himself deems appropriate. The use of scare tactics veiled in the word of God to induce continuation of junk mail forwarding demonstrates that indeed ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…’ (John 10:10). Hence; Christians have to ‘Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour’– 1 Peter 5:8
- The so-called Christian chain mails undermine one of the basic Christian teachings: That we are God’s creation (Genesis 1:27). And being His creation, we not only exist for His purpose and pleasure and not the other way round (Rev 4:11). It is our responsibility to strive everyday to seek Him, to please Him and to walk according to His Will, not for Him to be running errands for us, while the heaviest lifting we are encouraged to do is tap our keyboards to forward junk mail;
- In view of this, it is hard to believe that these mails are be generated by Christians who fully understand this basic teaching, and who fully understand God´s greatness and have a reverential fear of the Lord. These mails clearly push an Anti-Christ agenda, which not only makes a mockery of the Christian faith; but also diminishes God to the status of a magician whose role is to perform miracles and churn out blessings (material wealth) for our worldly comfort at our every whim; and within specified time. The picture of God that is being painted by these chain mails is certainly not the Christian God that the Bible teaches us about. Unfortunately, the Anti-Christ agenda pushed through these mails, finds willing marketing executives from a pool of ‘fence sitting’ Christians out there. There is no ambiguity in the word that says: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,’’ Matthew 6:33. That is, ‘GOD FIRST.’ By participating in these chain mails, we are essentially participating in re-writing this scripture to: “But seek first all things to be added to you and then perhaps you can seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness”—‘ME FIRST.’
- Christian Chain mails like any other chain mails or letters, promise a phenomenal return on a small effort. According to these mails, staying in God’s radar screen of miracles and blessings needs only the smallest effort anyone can ever make—a few taps on your keyboard or shall I say your employer’s keyboard and time, and 9 seconds, 4 minutes, one day later—a miracle is suppose to happen. A typical example below:
“God closes doors no man can open and God opens doors no man can close. If you need God to open some doors for you…send this to people you like including me, and if you don’t need God to open some doors for you, just delete it”
- Clearly these mails falsely give an impression that there is no need to build a relationship with the Lord. As Audrey said during our conversation, what God is expected to do in these mails cannot even be equated to someone drawing money from an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM or Bankomat). To draw money from an ATM or Bankomat, ought to have have deposited money in their bank account in first place. Unless of course you are fraudster. So, why do we want to reap where we did not sow in relation to God? Are we trying to defraud God? Is it even possible?
- My conversations with Nickie and Audrey taught me an invaluable lesson: When you have no confusion about who you are in Christ– that is– when you are clear about your Christian identity, and that identity goes beyond just being a church goer, beyond being a hearer of the Word, to being a doer of the Word (James 1:22), you cannot be fooled by ‘a wolf in a sheep skin’ (see Matthew 7:15). You will recognise it from a distance and be able to take a stand against it. My two friends are far from perfect. I believe they struggle with the same issues which come with ‘being in this world but not being of this world’ which every Christian contends with in their daily walk with the Lord (John 17:14-15). But their clear unambiguous stand against ‘Christian’ chain mails helped me understand what the Apostle Paul meant by “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm”
(Ephesians 6:13). During my before status, I did not have the armor that Nickie had, so I could not stand firm!
- The fear tactics being used in these mails disqualify them from being Christian. In 2 Timothy 1:7 it is clearly written: ‘for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” This scripture not only gives assurance us that living in fear is not part of God’s plan for our lives, and also that God would never use fear or scare tactics such as below to induce obedience from us or as a condition for blessing us. Otherwise we would all be Christians by now, wouldn’t we?
Christians are followers of Christ. My understanding of this is that in our everyday lives, we ought to strive to be like Him. So, if Christ did not use scare tactics to induce obedience from His followers, in whose footsteps are we walking? Whose agenda are we pushing?
Kebotise Mmualebe–My Opinion!!