Lesson for us from disciples of Jesus' election to replace Judas

National tallying centre, Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The general election is upon us and that means another opportunity to participate in deciding who will lead us for the next five years. Even though Christians are divided along tribal and other lines, there’s still some discernment of God’s sovereignty in the appointment of leaders.

The questions linger. Do we get the leaders that God chooses for us or does God let us choose leaders for ourselves? Are the candidates we elect today of God’s making? Or shall get the leaders we deserve, as people often say. If God chooses leaders for us, does it even matter if we vote?

Ours is a complex situation where either camp believes their candidate is the chosen one. But I also know many people who are genuinely confused about the will of God in this election.

God cares about leadership but it’s interesting to see the nexus between God’s will and man’s sinful nature through the example of Israel.

Jesus was born in Israel, a nation founded by God himself. There have been recent discussions on Kenya being a secular nation constitutionally with most of its residents identifying as Christians. There is debate on whether we are truly 80 per cent Christians. But whatever the answer, Israel was God’s country in every sense of the word. God gave them their laws. God established their leadership.

If a divine political arrangement could have fixed the world, it would have done so in Israel. But it did not. God’s people were unfaithful. They went into exile and returned. They rebuilt and were invaded and occupied. Jesus was born into a nation hoping for a Messiah to deliver them.

But he did not fulfil that hope. He didn’t lead an uprising against Rome. He was crucified, buried and he rose again. And even after that, his disciples still wondered if he would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). They could not let go of the idea that a political deliverance was high on the agenda. But Jesus had another plan altogether.

I find myself struggling between the understanding of our fallen world and the sinful nature, the push for a better country with limited suffering and my true citizenship which is in heaven.

But we are here now, facing an uncertain election in a nation that looks like it is being held by a thread.

Let’s look at an example of voting in Acts 1: 12-26 where the disciples of Jesus sought to replace Judas. They came together and administered a vote between two men they had nominated. Mathias won and was added to the eleven.

It’s interesting to see how they went about it and the lessons we can draw from that.

  1. They clearly defined who they wanted

Peter said, “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1: 21).

They were categorical on who qualified. The entry requirements were clearly set. They sought men who understood the mission and shared similar values.

  1. They nominated two men. So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias (Acts 1: 21).

Just like our elections, they held their nominations. Now, I understand that the structure of our politics is unorthodox in the sense that it rarely allows people of integrity to ascend to the top levels of political leadership. It’s murky and quite often only those ready to get dirty get into it. A Christian desiring political leadership has to be warped into that mess.

If our process of getting nominees is flawed, we will always end up with bad leaders. This implies that Christians ought to participate in leadership from the lower levels. You could be praying for the presidential choice forgetting your local MCA and governor who I believe are the most important leaders after the presidency.

What values inform our choice of nyumba kumi leaders, school board officials, village elders, or even chama officials? What makes us think that we can suddenly employ a Christian system when choosing a president when all the other leaders are products of our biases? Our values should be consistent.

There is a man of the cloth on the presidential ballot but many seem not to care about him. Why? Because most of us knew him when he presented his papers to IEBC for clearance. We cannot win at higher levels if we don’t participate in the lower levels and apply Christ-like values in choosing leaders at all levels.

  1. They prayed. Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” (Acts 1: 24).

This is a simple but very powerful prayer. It asks for God’s will to be done. It casts away intrinsic biases of tribe, family, friendship and any other. It deals with those subconscious stereotypes that have made you choose certain leaders in the past. Ultimately, it’s God who knows the hearts of the candidates. Some of us have become apologists of candidates. Even when they are clear in what they said, we find a way of defending them.

The biggest question is, if God answers such a prayer, will you obey?

  1. They voted. Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1: 26).

A Christian cannot pray and not vote. That’s irresponsible. The step of faith after praying for Godly leaders is voting.

Taking authority during elections means going to the polling station and casting the ballot according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, who we elect is both our will and God’s will. Our part is applying our God-given wisdom in nominating the right leaders and praying. God’s part is revealing that leader and our final act of obedience is casting the ballot according to that revelation.