A SERMON DELIVERED BY THE PRESIDENT OF CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (CAN), REV. DR. SAMSON O. A. AYOKUNLE ON THE OCCASION OF 60 YEARS INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY SERVICE OF NIGERIA PRESENTED ON SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27, 2020
Text. Mark 12: 28-31
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.””
We need to give glory to God at this unique time of diamond jubilee anniversary of our nation. Despite the internecine war of 1967-1970, despite the political upheavals, despite the travails of bad economy, insecurity, unemployment and recently, COVID-19 pandemic, e.t.c., Nigeria is still one as a nation. Though we are far from being at where we ought and want to be now, I believe we can get to where we ought to be if we discover our crucial need to attain greatness as a divinely endowed nation and pursue it. I believe, with the right attitude from all of us and with God helping us, our tomorrow in Nigeria shall be greater than today. If you believe that with me, let me hear you say a great ‘Amen.’ If anyone doesn’t have hope of a greater and better Nigeria anymore, he or she should relocate elsewhere because such a person wouldn’t do anything more deliberately to make Nigeria great. However, for us to attain greatness in Nigeria, the crucial thing we need is love. Anywhere there is love, there would be peace and prosperity.
1. What Love Do We Need?
The love we need to embrace in Nigeria is God’s kind of love for us. This love is unconditional, eternal and sacrificial. It is agape and can be divided into two namely:
a. Love for God
b.Love for fellow humans or one another irrespective of ethnicity, region or religion.
a. Love for God.
One may be tempted to argue that we already have love for God in Nigeria because we are endemically religious! Yes, that appears to be so. However, from practical experience of the way we behave in different places and at different levels, our love for God is superfluous and hypocritical and our faith or religiosity is empty. It has not reflected in the life of holiness and impeccable integrity at work or in the market place in general. The Bible says in James 2: 20-22, 26:
“You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
We need true religiosity in Nigeria to reposition Nigeria and overcome our corrupt way of living which has almost become the norm to our shame.
b. Love for Fellow Humans
The love for God that we claim as a religious people and our knowledge of God is deceptive or deceitful because of the way we manifest ethnic and religious chauvinism or bias in leadership and in different places.
The Bible submits on true love of God as follows in 1John 4: 20-21:
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
2. What Will Love Do for Us if We Embrace It?
i. Love Would Allow Us to Serve One Another Selflessly and Build the Nation
One of the things causing our pains today is selfishness. Where there is selfishness, love for one another cannot be there. Selfishness makes those with privileged access to our resources to use it for themselves, not for the good of all. It allows those in different positions, either political or otherwise to embezzle our commonwealth, extort others and operate leadership in utter wickedness and recklessness. The corruption which the present administration has identified and is waging war against wouldn’t have been with us if there was love for this nation and one another. Love would have allowed us to use our leadership to build structures and facilities for our general good.
An example of love that builds the nation is seen in Luke 7: 1-5 and it reads:
“When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.
Through love, let us use our positions to build Nigeria.
ii. Love Would Allow Us to Relate Together Peacefully, Making Us One.
We have killings here and there in our nation today, especially in the past ten years the way it never happened in this nation before. A nation that is ethnically plural like ours can only stay together if there is embrace of love without discrimination.
Equally, a nation that is religiously plural like ours requires love in practice so as to co-exist without fighting one another. What is sane in using the name of God or hide under the cloak of religion to kill a fellow human? If God wants all of us to be of one ethnicity or race or religion doesn’t he have the power to do it? Why do we want to play God and wickedly terminate the lives of others in account of religion?
To be a change agent and pursue happiness for yourself and others in this nation, please, refuse to be used to hurt another individual but to embrace them. Hear what the Bible says again:
Acts 17: 26
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
iii. Love Would Help Us Harness Our Diversities Profitably
Though God is one, yet God is a community. Only one community. What does this mean? There is only one God, but in human history, he has revealed himself as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
At creation in Genesis, we saw this at work! The Bible says, ‘God said, let us make man in our own image…’ (Genesis 1: 26).
Who was the ‘us’ in that saying? God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit as a community which is equally one. They are indivisible but manifest and act together without contradiction or friction.
Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and material resources located in different parts of this country. This underscores the indispensability of all the regions and ethnic groups. For us all to be on the same page, for everybody to have sense of belonging and be happy, the doctrine of equality, that is equal access to employment, governance and education, e.t.c., must be available to all. The principle of inclusivity as well must be adopted. Nobody or region must be excluded from the scheme of things in Nigeria. We must not allow exclusion in any form to manifest in our national life because that would be dangerous for our pilgrimage or voyage together. All ethnic and religious groups must be given equal opportunity in the way we do things, otherwise, why should I remain where I was not recognized or where I was cheated? Will I not rather go on my own way?
Why should I be denied access to build my place of worship in any region of the country by government official?
Why should my child be denied the opportunity to study any particular course in any university after he or she has passed the required examination on account of the child’s religion or ethnicity? After all, ethnicity is ascribed, it is divinely conferred, not achieved by the individual.
Why do you, somebody that claims to know God deny me access to what I am qualified for on account of my ethnicity which God has put on me without my choice? Was God wrong or did he hate me to make me what I am?
iv. Love would help us build trust in one another
There is mutual suspicion of one another in Nigeria, either along ethnic or religious lines. Many things we agree to do at dialogue tables we have refused to do hitherto because lack of love makes us to suspect one another. We need to do away with lack of trust in order to build a great nation.
v. Through love, we would be our brother’s keeper.
When the Lord asked Cain, where is your brother? What did he say? He said, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper? Why did he reply God like that? Because, love between him and his brother Abel had broken down. He had killed him already!
What an unfortunate development! (Genesis 4: 9)
In Luke 10: 25-37, the Good Samaritan saw somebody in pains, without asking for his religion or ethnicity, he helped him. That was true religion and true love which we need to make our nation great.
That was love in practice, not in words of mouth!
To many of us in Nigeria today, with all our education and religion, in my opinion, the love the Samaritan exhibited is not in us but bitterness and hatred of one another. This is where we are in the situation we are today! If we continue like this, our nation cannot be great.
Through love, let there be care for one another. This nation is blessed with human and material resources, let us engage them for our general good. It is in serving our generation according to the will of God alone that we can live meaningful life. It is in serving our generation through love that this nation can be one and great indeed.
Let us wake up the sleeping and crippled giant Nigeria through love.
Let us end the bloodshed and all forms of discrimination in our midst through love to enable us experience the joy of togetherness.
God has promised to make Nigeria great but that is not possible without love. I believe the promises of Isaiah 9: 1-3 is for us if we love one another. It says: Isaiah 9: 1-3
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honour Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan— The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.”
May these pronouncements come to pass over our nation in Jesus’ name.