Nigeria is a multi-religious nation with most of its citizens either Muslims or Christians alongside other religions. Islam (50.4%), Christianity (48.2%) and Animist and others (1.4%) according to the Wikipedia page on Nigeria.
Muslims and Christians respect the views of certain personalities like Moses (or prophet Musa), Abraham (or prophet Ibrahim), Jesus (or prophet Isa) et cetera. That is the basis for this article which seeks to call the attention of 98.6% of Nigerians to the truth of what they profess to believe.
I am a Christian and so will pull my text from the Bible.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Jesus, talking to his disciples and by extension all his followers gave guidelines on how to deal with violence – Love your enemies.
The idea that we should love our enemies is as radical today as it was in the days when Jesus was physically on the earth in fact in the previous verse Jesus said “you have heard that it hath been said, thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy”.
The idea was so radical that it took some time for Jesus’ own disciples to comprehend this guideline much less begin to follow it. In John 18:10-11, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the people that wanted to arrest Jesus, but Jesus healed the ear that had been cut off and corrected Peter. In Luke 9:52-56, James and John wanted to call down fire to destroy a Samaritan village because they did not receive Jesus and again, Jesus rebuked them by saying they do not know what spirit they have and that He did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save.
When asked what is the greatest commandment Jesus’ reply was “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength and with all thy mind and thy neighbour as thyself” (emphasis mine).
In the face of violence of any kind we can take a cue from Jesus’ position, we are to love our enemies. I do not intend in any way to criticise the actions of those who are direct victims of violence as it is usually easier to say than do the good that we know but that does not change the position or view of Jesus in the matter. Jesus set an example for us when he said in Luke 23:34 “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” as he was being executed on the cross.
We are told by Peter in 1 Peter 2:21 that Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps. Stephen a deacon in the early church did so when he was being stoned. It is not a stretch of the imagination to say that if Boko Haram kidnaps and is about to execute someone then if the person is following in the steps of Jesus that person will pray to God to forgive the Boko Haram executor. This is really radical.
If Nigerians followed this example more closely, I believe violence will not have a place in our Nation.
The fundamental message of Jesus (or prophet Isa) is one of Love. In John 17 Jesus prayed to God that the world should know that God sent him by the Love that his followers display.
Paul has this to say about Love in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Jesus would not support hate or inciting speech, the Bible and I believe the Qur’an do not support most of what is being done in the name of politics by politicians and non-politicians alike. A religious nation such as Nigeria should not be one where verbal attacks on anyone should be normal as it has come to be today. Nigeria should not be the place where our youths curse themselves out or use foul language on various forms of social media in a bid to make a point. We should be a lot better than this. We should be an example to other nations where a large percentage of the citizens are atheists.
It is saddening that we still hear about things like a certain political party’s agenda is to Islamize the entire nation forcibly even though a respected pastor is the Vice-Presidential candidate and more recently reports that that same party is a Christian Party trying to wipe out Islam because the Vice-Presidential candidate is a pastor who oversees a large number of churches.
Messages like the above are designed to create fear so that citizens will act irrationally. Leaders in every walk of life from Religious to Political should not be associated in any way with messages like this but sadly this is the kind of message being peddled in a country that is so religious.
The solution to fear is Love. In I John 4:18, the Bible says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” A message of Love should spread out from all places of worship that profess to respect the views of Jesus (or Prophet Isa). God loves you, Jesus loves you and I love you in spite of who you are, where you come from or what you believe. If we follow the steps of Jesus we should also include I love you in spite of what you did or are doing to me.
Finally, as I close this short piece, I want to draw attention to the qualities of a leader as endorsed by Moses (or prophet Musa). When Jethro, Moses’ father in law visited him after the exodus from Egypt, he gave him the following advice in Exodus 18:21 “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” This should form the basis of choosing or voting leaders.
If we apply the following guideline to our politics, it becomes very easy to choose. Is your preferred candidate an able man or woman? Has the person demonstrated top notch ability in the various tasks or there are examples of less than stellar performance in a couple of areas? Does your preferred candidate fear God? Is your preferred candidate a Man of Truth? Is your preferred candidate a man of his or her words? Does your preferred candidate hate covetousness considering the fact that hate is one of the strongest emotions? Is your preferred candidate a person who is known for hating bribes? What is your preferred candidate’s stance on corruption or corrupt people?
A last word for people who claim to have heard from God. God does not contradict his word and the final test for a word from God is that it must agree with the Bible if the person hearing from God is a Christian. It is therefore easy to conclude that one cannot hear from God to vote for someone who does not hate covetousness or is not a man of truth or is not known for hating bribes or is not an able man.
I pray that in spite of our tribal sentiments or religious biases, we will find the courage and moral strength to vote according to the guidelines endorsed by Moses (or prophet Musa) and we will love our neighbours the way Jesus (or prophet Isa) commanded us to in spite of what they look like or what they have done to us.
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