Arguments and Contentions
You would think that we already have enough problems arrayed against us in Nigeria, but every once in a while, one hears of, or sees, a new problem being conjured up to add to our distress, or an old goblin being invoked to undermine whatever measure of peace that we already possess. Not so long ago, a controversy emerged among some brothers of mine that I hold very dear. A hint is apt at this juncture. I come from a very large extended family, which appears to grow by the day, and for which we thank GOD. Furthermore, the family is made up of a great variety of persons, with just as many perspectives on life, death, and eternity. The family also sustains Christians and Muslims in peaceful and supportive co-habitation. Then of course, two brothers get embroilled in the controversy of faith/religion, of Muslim versus Christian; sowing a line squal, they soon begin to reap a cyclone; and that is how I got sucked in!
Considering the problems facing us today; one would not expect people to invest energy in such controversies. However, it is worth setting aside our default theme for once, and to explain why I believe such controversies should not be allowed to distract us from working together (Muslim & Christian) for justice and progress in Nigeria. Please indulge me by following through in the elaborations that follow – based on my Christian perspective.
Who is He?
For me, Jesus Christ is the Son of GOD, and my personal saviour. Without Jesus Christ, I have no business with GOD, being that I am neither Jew nor Arab: the only two peoples that GOD made promises to concerning blessings and multiplication. However, if I would consider becoming either Jew or Arab, so as to have communion with GOD, I only need to look at what GOD’s people of the promise are doing in the Middle-East today, and I can readily conclude that, if violence, hatred, murder and war is part of the deal, I will abstain.
So, how then can I remain in touch with GOD, if I am not to become Jew or Arab. I take it that we all believe that there is only one GOD. I continue to say that whether you call GOD by the name GOD, Allah, Olodumare, Chineke, etc. it matters nothing, the glory goes to the same one who at Babel decided to scatter the people over the earth by confusing their language. I also continue to say that this GOD is a holy spirit and does not participate in, nor tolerate evil. As such, any human being that will share the same space (Heaven) with GOD must of necessity be likewise holy (devoid of wrongs).
Of Things Above Us
At this juncture, I must digress a bit by examining the concept of Heaven. Heaven by expression implies that there is a Hell, since both stand as opposites to each other. If there was one without the other, the concept of a final judgement by GOD would make no sense in that we would all end up in the same quarters. If also there is an effective judgement, as surely there will be, then, it means those that are holy like GOD will enter with him into Heaven, while those found wanting would “go to Hell”! I hope we all agree on this as well. These premises, of one GOD, of a Heaven and a Hell, and also of right/wrong or good/evil, are vital for the persuasions that follow. Now to return to our discussion.
Navigating the Scales
Before we go any further, we need to ask ourselves an important question, i.e., “is the judgement of GOD based on relative or absolute purity?”, i.e. are you weighed in the balance as to the degree of your goodness/badness, or is it simply a question of, “have you sinned or not”. If it is the former (relative purity), every human being that has ever lived appears before GOD completely unsure of whether he/she is going to make it into heaven or not. Life is too long for anyone to keep accurate records of all good/bad things one has done, so that one could weigh oneself in the balances before one dies. If it is the latter (absolute), then virtually every human being is bound for Hell – unless there is some divine intervention – since all of us err sometimes, and most of us will err even on the day we die, for example by having spare cash in our account while many around us go hungry.
The questions then are; How does one keep the balance tilted towards greater goodness? (relative purity) How does one maintain holiness/sinlessness until the point of death? (absolute purity) In both cases, I believe Jesus Christ saves. For me, Jesus Christ is not a religion, I am a Christian only because that is the name people call those who follow Christ, but I am of the opinion that one could be a Moslem/Jew/Hindu/Sikh/etc. and still believe in Jesus Christ the son of GOD. Because, which ever way you take it (relative/absolute) true faith in Jesus Christ will get you to heaven. Allow me to explain.
The Relative Argument
This (Relative) means that you need to do more good than bad, and thereby be weighed favourably when placed on GOD’s scales of justice and purity. Jesus Christ lived an exemplary life of sinlessness that demonstrates GOD’s requirements of human beings. However, to follow the example that Christ set will break your balls if you are a man, and I do not know what it will do to the woman, but I can assure that it will be more than uncomfortable. The standards are so high that they appear un-attainable, and to my mind, past difficult. The truth is that most people will fail in seeking to live exactly like Christ. However, in pursuing the Christ-example, we lean on a powerful truth from Plato’s “The Republic”, and his Ideal State concept; of which he said:
In heaven, I replied, there is laid up a pattern of it [Ideal State], methinks, which he who desires may behold, and beholding, may set his own house in order. But whether such an one exists, or ever will exist in fact, is no matter; for he will live after the manner of that city, having nothing to do with any other.
Like Plato’s Ideal State, in first apprehending the Christ, and thereafter in the pursuit of the Christ, one’s life becomes better, even if that person never attains Christ-ness. Indeed, I am of the opinion that it is impossible to realise Christ-ness on this earth – there are those who will contest this statement, but I am not moved. To the best of my knowledge, no one has lived a life that invalidates my opinion, and so my position remains unchanged.
The Absolute Argument
If GOD insists on total (Absolute) sinlessness as the condition for admission to heaven, it is clear that virtually all, in fact, all human beings are doomed even before they reach their teenages. By the time we reach adolescence we are already well stocked with a great variety of sins, quite a few, out of ignorance … “respect for elders, satisfaction with what you have, generosity to the poor, kindness to the disadvantaged and even to animals, etc. etc.”. The list is endless, and most of us will have many items checked! What is more, almost certainly, on the day that one dies, one may sin, provided one has the faculties to interact with one’s surroundings before one crosses over to eternity. A person might be annoyed and curse someone; may hold unforgiveness against another; may fail to honour GOD in showing appreciation for the life one had, even if one was not ready to die at that time; the possibilities are nigh on infinite. It would appear that we are doomed to all fail an absolute bar; we need an escape route, a VIP pass, an insurance policy. What do we do? What can we do? I believe, the only answer is to believe the Book of Life which says that GOD has put all our sins on the Christ, and that by accepting the Christ, we can plead not-guilty before GOD. As I see it, this is an unbelievably good offer for Christians, and a spectacularly sound insurance policy for non- believers. Carry on being whoever you are, Christian, Moslem, Hindu, Jain, Jew, Freethinker, etc. but just believe in Christ, and leave the getting-into-heaven to Him.
The Matter in a Nutshell
In conclusion, I must say that all my friends and family are first of all friend or family, before they are Christian, Muslim or whatever, my love and commitment to those around me is not determined by who they are, but that GOD has blessed me by sorrounding me with such people, and I will continue to be friends or family with them till I die, even if they never accept Christ. However as a loved one, I must not hide what I know and believe, even if I never try to force it down anyone’s throat. My destiny is tied up with and in Christ; if one were to come down from heaven today and say to me that Christ has been cast into Hell, it would not change my position; where He is, that is where I want to be too. Much water has already passed under the bridge that ties us together, after all I have been through in that name, it would be treachery now to disown that name, and GOD help me, I will not. I do not know GOD’s standards (relative/absolute), neither do I worry myself about them, the only thing that I pray is that GOD accepts me a Christian, my dearest grandmother who died a Muslim, and all of my friends and family, whatever they professed to be in this life. That is the crux of the matter for me; and I go further to say that our differences of perspective on GOD should not be cause for animosity between ourselves (Nigerians). Such differences must not hinder us from working together for the progress of our country; especially as the GOD-less are presently-speaking, busy destroying our country and the livelihood and way of life of our people. There is a time for everything as we all agree. On the day of judgement, all controversies will be resolved; now though is the time for nation-building! Let us all put these controversies aside and stand up to be counted for one Nigeria.
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