Friday, May 5, 2017
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” –- Marcus Aurelius
There is an expression here that is the highest compliment a man (or woman) can receive. It is to be called an “mtu kweli” or literally “true man.” What it means colloquially is that whoever is an ‘mtu kweli’ is an honest man, a man of integrity, a man who does not lie, a man whose word is always good, a man who will apologize for his mistakes and do his “level best” (another local expression) to rectify the mistake. An mtu kweli is one who will make sacrifices for his wife and family and will not allow an obstacle to best him. You don't hear this being used for many women because strong, faithful, and sacrificial women are the norm rather than the exception. There are lots of names for those women who live lives that are immoral and on the fringes of acceptable society, yet women with AIDS are not pariahs as some might expect, but are taken care of as victims—which they are. Many men, on the other hand, are known to drink up the money the women make, to beat their wives, to cheat each other, and to lie about almost everything. Becoming a Christian changes most of this for most men. They become better men, better husbands, better fathers, and better members of their tribes. Yet, they still revere and respect those who are called ‘mtu kweli’ as these kinds of men are not common, but there are so many of them that almost everyone knows more than one—and almost all are members of churches. I have been away from American society for twelve years, but even twelve years ago I knew some that would have been called mtu kweli. When I was a boy, there were politicians we respected, leaders we admired and followed, and local businessmen, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, and pastors that we all held in high esteem because of their actions and beliefs. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that this is no longer true. I think if you know even one mtu kweli (man or woman—mtu means person), you are blessed. We used to look to government, business, and the church for our leaders and those who would hold themselves and us to higher standards, both moral and ethical. I think those days are gone. Sadly, I know more bishops who are not even close to being called mtu kweli than those who are. This is also true of businessmen, teachers, coaches (Arkansas has had its share of coaches who disappointed on the moral and ethical front), and too many husbands and fathers. Christ set a high bar, but still an attainable one. We each know individuals that live lives that become the Gospel. There are still men out there who are shining examples of what a good, Christian man is and does. I know many who continue to inspire and lead. Brian Swain is an mtu kweli. Gordon Allison is an mtu kweli. Mike Flanagan is an mtu kweli. Pete O’Neal is an mtu kweli. I am blessed because I know these men and count them among my friends. I could name many, many more but I know I would leave some out. Christ called us to this high calling and is still calling—expecting more of us than we think we can deliver, yet we do. If you know an mtu kweli, tell him (or her) so. All of us know the times we don’t measure up and tend to forget the many more times that we do. There are no people who cannot be better persons by keeping their eyes on the prize that is the heavenly call of Christ Jesus. Man or woman, we can and should be inspirational models for others. It is because we know people who can and do lead lives like this that we also know that we can, too.