The statement ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is familiar.
But recently a friend shared an incident with me which made me consider the flip side of the statement.
A few months ago he went to pay the school fees of his kids. In the process of making the payment into the school’s bank account he discovered the arithmetic on the bill is incorrect. The total amount was several thousand naira less than what he should actually pay. He went back to the school and pointed out the error. The staff who made the error was surprised. He was so impressed he started referring to my friend as Pastor.
I was impressed with my friend. He demonstrated integrity.
He could have paid less than what he eventually paid, and rationalize it by saying,
- ‘It wasn’t my mistake. I paid what their bill said I should pay.’
- ‘I will assume it’s more discount’ (his children enjoy a discount on their fees).’
I was also depressed.
The incident reminded me of the poor or bad perception people have of Christians in Nigeria. You see my friend is a full-time Christian vocation worker. He could be referred to as a clergyman. But he wasn’t addressed that way until he ‘proved he is worthy of the name’.
‘You were perceived guilty until proven innocent.’ I told him.
How is it that a Christian, whose God ‘cannot lie’ and ‘detests a lying tongue’ has a reputation for falsehood deception and dishonesty?
There was a time when Christians were popular for their integrity. They were depended on to know and speak the truth about a situation. They were not even assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. A Christian’s innocence was indisputable.
Unfortunately, today as a Christian, I am guilty until proven innocent.
I am from a country whose citizens have been labelled as frauds. Admittedly, many of my country men have earned for us this bad reputation. But there are many of us out there, like my friend, who are committed to living lives of integrity. For us the stereotype is unfair. Many times it is exaggerated,
In spite of the bad label, there are many individuals who truly follow and honour Jesus; living a life of transparency and integrity, in big and small things, in the crowd and closet.
You can be authentic. You must be authentic. It’s not a piece of cake. It will be tough. But you can do it.
‘I [You] can do all things through Christ who gives the strength.’ (Philippians 4:13)
If you are a Nigerian, know that we can redeem our image. With one honest act at a time we can remove the label that we have helped others stick on us. It doesn’t matter how insignificant the circumstance or inconsequential the act, choose to be honest and transparent.
Are you living with a stereotype or label you dislike? Please share.