Africa Faith Theology

John Chilembwe; the Theologian who Led a Revolution.

Every January 15th we celebrate an important milestone for us as a country, in 1915, John Chilembwe’s uprising was officially a revolution. Reverend John Chilembwe was a husband, father, pastor, theologian and revolutionary. He led Malawi’s first uprising against the Thangata (slavery) system of oppression. We celebrate him as a national hero, his face is on our banknotes and he has a holiday to his name. One thing that is constantly overlooked in his story is his faith, everyone knows he was a reverend, but besides that, it was his set of beliefs that actually moved him to lead this revolution that changed our entire history.

There is so much that can be said about the life of Rev. John Chilembwe, but in this short post, I want to particularly focus on his faith being the major cause of the revolution.

John Chilembwe was a theologian believed in the defining truth that is Genesis 1:27, that mankind is made in the image of God. His belief in the Imago Dei led him to see slavery and systematic oppression for the evil that it is. He believed that our value as black people came not from the fact that we have the ability to talk and walk on two feet but because we hold the image of God. The revolution was a way of saying to the oppressors, ‘we are made in the image of God, treat us as such’.

What we believe about the word of God and what is says shapes how we view our world. As believers, our hearts should be moved by the injustice and oppression that we see around us. Our God and theology don’t call us to passivity but a faith that works for the glory of God.

What do you believe about God?
What do you believe about the bible?
What do you think the world of God as you do about our nation as it is today?
To what end?

Reverend John Chilembwe’s uprising was for the glory of God and for the good of his people. He wanted his people (congregation) to have the freedom to worship God, plant churches and work with their hands to earn and provide for their families. His heart as a pastor, theologian and missionary is what moved him to act upon what he was seeing, I believe the uprising was simply a means to an end for him.

Years later, here we are, free Malawians, Thangata system was abolished, we have freedom of worship and religion. We have so much more work to do, so much more to fight for.

Is your faith and theology moving you to fight or is it a pillow for passivity?

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  • Reply
    January 15, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Diana, great post and wonderful peice on Rev. Chilembwe. I was not aware of this story so this is wonderful new information for me. Great job! God bless!

    • Reply
      January 15, 2018 at 2:36 pm

      Thank you. A great resource to check out on this is “The Life and Legacy of Pastor John Chilembwe” by M.R.C Thundu

  • Reply
    Dickson Mervyn Kapichi
    January 15, 2018 at 10:40 pm

    A great insight and a brief history of one of Malawi greatest freedom fighters. I loved it

    • Reply
      January 15, 2018 at 11:06 pm

      Thank you

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