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EMELDA Musonda.

Fraudsters in clerical collars

IT IS saddening, though not surprising, that we are witnessing an upsurge in the number of clergy stealing the limelight for all the wrong reasons.
It is all prophesied in the book of life that in the end times false prophets will arise and deceive many.
In distinguishing between the true followers of Christ and imposters the Bible says you will know them by their fruits.
God has placed a higher obligation on the men and women of the cloth to live above reproach.
It is therefore expected of the clergy by nature of their calling to live exemplary lives which inspire those under them.
Congregants hold the clergy in high esteem and usually look up to them for counselling, guidance and comfort when faced with challenges.
As custodians and propagators of biblical principles, the clergy are expected to lead the way by living what they preach.
They need to demonstrate both in word and deeds that a morally upright life is attainable.
This is what gives them the moral right and authority to denounce sin and advocate righteousness and holiness.
It is not only embarrassing but a mockery of the gospel for a man of the cloth to get embroiled in scandals.
Sadly we have so many so-called pastors dragging the name of the Lord in the mud through ungodly conduct.
The media is flooded with stories of pastors arrested or imprisoned for various offences, especially sexual abuse and fraud.
Just a few days ago a pastor of Interdenominational Jesus Ministries in Chipata Overspill, John Simfukwe, was sentenced to five years imprisonment for swindling a widow out of K260,000, which was part of her late husband’s benefits.
The case details indicate that on August 16, 2016, Ms Mildred Chikato, a widow of SOS area in Lusaka, gave Simfukwe K170,000 to buy a house for her and K90,000 to help her start a business.
But the clergyman failed to use the money as agreed and did not return it to the owner either.
The court in its ruling stated that it was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the clergy took advantage of the widow’s vulnerability to swindle her, hence the five-year sentence.
This is an embarrassment and dent on the church and fellow clergy.
It is the conduct of such misfits that is causing people to view the Church in bad light thereby undermining its role in society.
Whether the pastor in question had intentions of swindling the widow or not, he crossed his line by involving himself with such transactions.
How does a pastor become a real estate agent and later on a business partner of his member and a widow for that matter?
He collected money and failed to account for it, which is not only a breach of moral values befitting a clergyman but a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Such are the bad eggs tarnishing the honourable name of the clergy. It is a known fact that we have men and women of God who are genuinely called and serving God honourably.
However, of concern are the likes of Pastor Simfukwe who use the name of God to prey on unsuspecting congregants. They abuse the trust congregants have in them by manipulating and abusing them.
The imprisonment of Pastor Simfukwe should serve as a warning that days are numbers for fraudsters in cleric collars. Before God passes His final verdict of hell, the law will certainly not spare those in the habit of abusing members.
Some men of God have been using the scripture which says “touch not my anointed” to silence members who notice unusual behaviour.
While it is acknowledged that men of God, by virtue of their office, deserve honour, some are using their status to fortify themselves as gods who cannot be advised or questioned.
Sadly, such go further to brainwash members who also see nothing wrong in worshipping them or even defending them when they commit wrongs.
It is heartbreaking that for a prima facie case such as Pastor Simfukwe’s, some members of his congregation are convinced that his imprisonment is persecution.
In reference to the imprisonment of their clergy, some members were quoted saying “Even Daniel was thrown in the den of lions”.
Daniel was thrown in the den of lions for choosing to worship his God over bowing to man. It is no wonder God saved him from the lions.
The same can be argued about Paul and Silas, who were arrested for preaching the gospel. Like in the case of Daniel, God came to their rescue by opening prison gates for them.
Even in the case of Jesus’ crucifixion, Pontius Pilate, a Roman governor who was judge over His trial could not find any case with him.
But today we have some clergymen being arrested and imprisoned for defilement, rape and fraud, among others, with glaring evidence against what they claim to stand for.
Instead of just repenting, some of the so-called clergy exhibit arrogance by claiming that they are going through persecution like some biblical personalities.
This is exactly what the Bible means when it says you will know them by their fruits.
Christians need to read the Bible for themselves to avoid being manipulated by wolves in sheep skin.
The Bible says God’s people perish for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
As prophesied, wolves are out there looking for prey. Congregants need to equip themselves with in-depth knowledge of the Bible to avoid being deceived and becoming victims at the hands of fraudsters in clerical collars.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.