Christians down the ages have engaged in social issues quite unselfconsciously, without feeling any need to define what they were doing or why they were doing it. Christian history is replete with so many examples of Christian social involvement. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the celebrated Baptist, began an Orphanage to address some of the social problems that confronted his society. Much earlier than Mr. Spurgeon, we read of George Muller beginning an Orphanage in Bristol. This was one of the first fruits of the conviction that Christians are to show their faith by their works. A similar ‘Home’ to deal with the incredible conditions in which many young boys existed in London’s slums was opened in 1866 by Dr. Barnardo. A litter later James W.C. Fegan began Ragged School work in London, and established Homes for Destitute Children in various parts of Great Britain. William Quarrier founded similar Homes in Scotland. This was not an exclusive domain for Christian men. Christian women were also involved. A Miss Daniels established ‘Soldiers’ Homes’; a Miss Agnes Weston opened Sailors’ rest Homes in various ports. An Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society established Homes for the care of elderly believers in need. One and all were gospel-based.1

These Christians refused to close their eyes to the plight of others around them. They understood that the gospel brought with it a deep sense of social responsibility. Even us today, we need to understand that, otherwise we have not come to appreciate the gospel message and its wider implications on the whole of life.

The Biblical Injunction

In a way, whistle blowing is taking more or less a form of social action against what is perceived to be the cause of social problems. It is seeking to expose those things that are not altogether glorifying to God and are therefore harmful to the well being of the human society, and, more importantly, for the Christian person, it is to “…shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life” before a crooked and perverse generation.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, calls Christians “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (see Matt. 5:13-16; cf. Prov. 31:8-9). He does not only refer to us in this way as an organised institution, but also as individual Christian people. Many people tend to argue that the Church as an institution must get involved in social-political-economic activism. They point to the prophets of the Old Testament, and say: “There, you see the Old Testament prophets confronted the nation of Israel and the ruling and religious elite. They denounced them. The Church today, must also denounce the evils being perpetuated in society.” Yes, indeed the prophets did that. But you will need to keep in mind, as you read the Old Testament, that the Church was the nation of Israel. There was no distinction between Church and state in the Old Testament. The prophets had therefore to address the whole nation and to speak about its entire life. But as you come to the New Testament, you will never find where the apostles of Jesus Christ commented on the unjust policies of the Imperial Roman government. They never passed any resolutions against certain social-political-economic policies of the Imperial government to do this or not to do that. They understood and taught that the primary task of the Church, as an institution, as an organisation, was to teach and preach the Word of God for the salvation of sinners and the sanctification of saints. When the Church assumes a partisan social-political-economic stance in society, she will invariably close her evangelistic doors upon a section of society. She will be hampering and hindering herself in her God-appointed work of evangelism and sanctification. She will no longer be able say that she “…regard no one according to the flesh”, and thereby be sinning against her Lord.2

But the Christian is to function as “the light of the world” in a much more individual sense. The Church therefore, in social involvement, must operate as an organism – that is, the individual members taking up their God assigned roles. Individual Christian members therefore, recognizing their capabilities and capacities, identifying a common cause, may group themselves together to work towards a common cause.

Bearing that in mind, let us now look at it more practically. How is the Christian person to show that he/she is indeed “the light of the world”? That resolves itself into a simple question: What is the effect of light? What does it really do? There can be no doubt that the first thing light does is to expose the darkness and the things that belong to the darkness (see Eph. 5:11-13). But secondly, light also guides and shows the way to those in darkness, providing direction and safety, yes, bringing sanity to what may be obscure (see Phil. 2:15, 16). In other words, a Christian “whistle-blower” will need to understand that he is not merely going to be exposing the unfruitful deeds of darkness as an end in itself. Rather he will also hold out the word of life, giving the biblical alternatives.

As a Christian, you are to expose the fruitless deeds of darkness by your life, your conversation, and all your influence. This is the business of every Christian person. Our lives should be a standing rebuke to a sinful world, and we should be ever ready to express our disapproval of its wickedness in every form. It is not so much that we can avoid all contact with the world (see 1 Cor. 5:10). Rather we are to avoid such intimate contacts with it, contacts that may be biblically compromising. These kinds of contacts will easily defile us, and weaken our testimony before the world. Rather, we must be like light which, though it touches filth, is not soiled by it. Instead it exposes it. Similarly, we must expose the fruitless deeds of darkness in our society.

Dr. D.M. Lloyd-Jones rightly observed, when he said: “Christian people, you and I are living in the midst of men and women who are in a state of gross darkness. They will never have any light anywhere in this world except from you and from me and the gospel we believe and teach. They are watching us. Do they see something different about us? Are our lives a silent rebuke to them? …Do we so live as to lead them to come and ask us, …‘How can you stand up to things as you do?’ …Christian people alone are the light of the world today. Let us live and function as children of the light.”3

A Historical Example

Church history is replete with examples of Christian ‘whistle-blowers’. One example may suffice to stir your heart. William Wilberforce and ‘the Clapham Sect’. The great 18th century Evangelical Revival did more to transfigure the moral character of the general populace, than any other movement British history can record. John Wesley Bready opens a window for us to see the moral decay and decadence that 18th century England was stooped into. He describes the deep savagery of much of the 18th century, which was characterized by the “…wanton torture of animals for sport, the bestial drunkenness of the populace, the inhuman traffic in African Negroes, the kidnapping of fellow-countrymen for exportation and sale as slaves, the mortality of parish children, the universal gambling obsession, the savagery of the prison system and penal code, the welter of immorality, the prostitution of the theatre, the growing prevalence of lawlessness, superstition and lewdness; the political bribery and corruption, the ecclesiastical arrogance and truculence, the shallow pretensions of Deism, the insincerity and debasement rampant in Church and State – such manifestations suggest that the British people were then perhaps as deeply degraded and debauched, as any people in Christendom.”4

The most famous among ‘the Clapham Sect’ were Granville Sharp, Thomas Clarkson, James Stephen, Zachary Macaulay, Charles Grant, John Shore (Lord Teignmouth), Thomas Babington, Henry Thornton, and of course their guiding light, William Wilberforce. These evangelical Christian gentlemen were committed with unequalled zeal to evangelism and social action. They were called ‘the Clapham Sect’, because most of them lived in Clapham, at that time a village three miles south of London, and belonged to Clapham Parish Church, whose Rector John Venn, the son of Henry Venn, were both outstanding evangelicals. In Parliament and in the press though, they were mocked as ‘the Saints’.

It was their concern over the plight of the African slaves that first brought them together. Three days before his death in 1791, John Wesley, one of the great evangelists of the 18th century Evangelical Revival, wrote to Wilberforce to assure him that God had raised him up for His glorious enterprise and to urge him not to be weary of well doing. It is largely to the Clapham Sect (under Wilberforce’s leadership) that the credit belongs for the first settlement of free slaves in Sierra Leone (1787), the abolition of the trade (1807), the registration of slaves in the colonies (1820), which put an end to slave smuggling, and finally their emancipation (1833).

“The group of Clapham friends gradually became knit together in an astonishing intimacy and solidarity. They planned and laboured like a committee that never was dissolved. At the Clapham mansions they congregated by common impulse in what they chose to call their ‘Cabinet Councils’ wherein they discussed the wrongs and injustices which were a reproach to their country, and the battles which would need to be fought to establish righteousness. And thereafter, in Parliament and out, they moved as one body, delegating to each man the work he could do best, that their common principles might be maintained and their common purposes be realized.”5

Reginald Coupland in his biography of William Wilberforce justly commented: “It was, indeed, a unique phenomenon – this brotherhood of Christian politicians. There has never been anything like it since in British public life.”6

A Word of Counsel

We need to understand that in order for us to fulfilling this role in society, we must not be unaware of the obvious dangers that are inherent therein. We must be conscious of limits to which we can go in being whistle blowers. Even as Christian citizens, unless we act cautiously and wisely in this area, we may risk running aground and making a shipwreck of our faith and testimony. I will take up some of the pitfalls that Pastor Makashini gives in his article, and add the following in respect to being whistle blowers. We must avoid the following pitfalls:

  1. Resorting to merely carnal weapons to make the world better. Paul cautions us: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Cor. 10:3-6). Our armory is the Word of God, prayer and the testimony of our lives; these are the spiritual resources always at our disposal to fight the ills in this world.
  2. False optimism that social-political-economic action alone can reform the world. This is not only self-delusion, but also a mistake that comes back to cuckoo. Many Christians, especially in the western world, who thought they are able to create an utopia in this world, became frustrated and loose heart in well doing. For as long as we are in this body and world of sin, true peace and justice will remain illusive.
  3. Getting sapped up into the social-political-economic battle at the expense of our primary calling – bearing witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ in the gospel message. We must not underestimate the time and energy that goes into this activity. These social activities can easily wear you down, such that you will become bitter and frustrated in life. Always keep the truths of the gospel before your eyes.
  4. Always, always be in possession of accurate and correct information over the matters that you think the whistle must be blown over. Patient research, consultation, inquiry and prayer to the Lord are cardinal rules to apply. The need for a thorough consultative process helps you become more useful to society, otherwise you may be considered a nuisance by the society. This is also important in the light of the fact that you may be called upon to provide more information on it by the powers-that-be.
  5. Consult with the sound Christian legal minds and experts in the field for the practical implications or ramifications of blowing the whistle in a respective case. This helps you to wisely shape your whistle blowing with some good and relevant understanding of the law. Also consult with your spiritual leaders for biblical counsel and prayer to do God’s bidding.


    I trust that you are will be able to understand the biblical mandate placed on your shoulders as a Christian citizen to your country. You cannot elect to remain mute over the many social ills and concerns around you. The gospel message places an urgent responsibility on you to respond relevantly to the social issues around you. May it never be said about us Reformed Christians in Zambia today that “They were so heavenly minded, that they had no earthly good.”


    1 S.M. Houghton, Sketches From Church History (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1980), pp.221-227.

    2 Read D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount: vol.1 (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1999), pp.149-179.

    3 Ibid. p.169.

    4 J. Wesley Bready, England: Before and After Wesley (Hodder & Stoughton, 1939), p.405.

    5 Quoted in Ernest Marshall Howes, Saints in Politics, the ‘Clapham Sect’ and the growth of freedom (George Allen & Unwin, 1953), p.27.

    6 Ibid. p.26.