(Continued from yesterday)
Defenders of Their Cause
Those who cherish our disunity in Nigeria’s Christendom will prefer we remain so, to serve their purpose. They are happy to exploit this and even find some Christians willing and useful stooges in defending their causee. For example when a governor wanted to make a law restricting religious preaching; Christians were among those who defended it. I watched a live debate on TV by Christians on the merits and demerits of the proposed law. Recently a lawmaker said it was a Christian in the leadership of the House of Assembly who advised the quiet passage of a bill for the expansion of powers of his religious judicial system. When the insurgents fighting in the north east clearly stated their goals which included eradicating Christianity, and insisting they were fighting a religious war, some Christians including those in government were quick to explain it away, saying it was poverty or political.
While We Drift Apart
Meanwhile many Christians are not sure whether they should first be Christians upholding the bond of unity of brotherhood in Christendom or champion their tribal or sectional interest in ungodly ways. We remain divided over issues that matter and continue drifting apart to the detriment of the cause of Christ and the forward match of our nation.
Whether the loose coalition of Christian denominational groups in the country has helped in bringing the type of Christian unity Jesus prayed for his church is another matter. Recently this body held an election that was not acceptable to one of the constituent blocks. This block threatened division in the body and possibly Nigeria’s Christendom if the election was not done the way they wanted. When shall Christians in the country unite, stand together and speak as one.
A church leader whose denomination was mostly affected by the insurgency in the north east lamented “No church in the south came to our aid in our plight”. Yet some individuals went out raking money within and outside the country in the name of the Christian victims of the insurgency.
In the heat of the insurgency some Christian youths fled to some cities in the south. Guess who were there to welcome them. Not the southern Christians who saw every northerner as belonging to the other religion, and young men in particular, as belonging to the religious fundamentalists wreaking havoc in the north east. These refugees were received by those of the other faith who are intentionally well positioned and on their own mission.
Those of the other faith gave the young Christians from the north food and shelter but on condition that they change their faith. Ironically some did, accepting in the Christian south with ease the very religion they and their parents rejected all their lives at the cost of their lives. Some young northern Christian men were beaten up in one town in the south because they wanted to join in worship with those they believed were fellow believers.
Time to Close Up
Jesus’ prayer for all believers in Him was, “That they may be one”. That is to be spiritually united and mature. “He was praying for a unity of love, a unity of obedience to God and His Word, and a united commitment to His will” among and by his followers worldwide. True Christian spirituality and maturity make believers see themselves as one in spite of obvious ethnic, regional and cultural differences. This is the time for the Nigeria Christians to make the prayer of Jesus a reality. This is the time to bridge the gaps caused by geographical, political, ethnic, cultural and denominational differences. It is time we feel for one another across all sides of the Niger and Benue rivers. It is time church leaders preach, teach and promote the kind of unity Jesus prayed for his church. Denominational leaderships can advance this cause instead of carving empires from tribal or regional blocks.
As it stands, our disunity as Christians is costing us opportunities to impact and influence the affairs of this country. It is standing in the way of effective evangelism and mission work. It is encouraging darkness taking over. We need unity in the spirit of the prayers of Jesus Christ and not a Christian political union that beg for favours from the world political system. We need unity that revitalizes the essence of practical Christianity and not a uniformity that brings heretical sects and orthodoxy together. This unity shows in love for one another irrespective of where one comes from. Love is what Jesus said will mark people as His disciples (John 13: 34-35).
Namani J. Nharrel is a Christian worker in North-Central Nigeria.