The foremost African American leader of the 20th Century, Martin Luther King Jr., having been arrested for leading a protest against racial segregation, wrote from his prison cell in Birmingham, Alabama. It was a letter he addressed to a group of clergymen that accused him of extremism. In that letter, he tacitly admitted being an extremist. And he argued that on that day at Calvary, three persons were crucified for the same offense; they were all extremists. To the left and to the right were two extremists. They were extremists in crime – theft and murder. In the middle, also, was an extremist. He was an extremist in his love for humanity and in doing the will of God.
Of course, Jesus Christ was an extremist. It must have taken an extremist in mercy and love to pray for the forgiveness of those who were crucifying him. The word Christian translates to Christ-like. Therefore, a true Christian, especially, a man of God, cannot escape being an extremist in the mode of Jesus Christ, that is, in love, selflessness and upholding the will of God.
The pulpit is sanctimonious and sacrosanct. The word of God is the most potent force within man’s grasp. And a true man of God cannot help being a Spirit-filled, fearless and daring warrior. I have always dreamt of when an invigorating mix of these powerful tools of God (fearless pastor, the pulpit and the divine Word) will give rise to the will of God in Nigeria.
In his last speech, Martin Luther King Jr. talked about, “I am not worried about anything. I am not fearing any man. I just want to do the will of God”. Evidently, he was acutely conscious that the will of God in America was not limited to guiding man towards eternal life in the hereafter, but included making America a racially just society where both Whites and Blacks can partake in all America promises all her citizens. He knew that the racial degradation of Blacks in America, and essentially, the degradation of any human being anywhere are against the will of God. So, in his extremism, he labored for an America all God’s children are judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
And today, the fruit of the work he did in concert with other Black American men of God is inconceivably evident. To elect a Black man, Barak Obama, to the presidency of a predominantly White country, he must have been judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin.
What is the will of God in Nigeria? The will of God in Nigeria must include that a Nigerian citizen be comfortable, proud and self-confident in his own country, knowing that he is the subject of the concerns and actions of elected and other public officials and all the institutions of government. That he feels protected and at peace in his country because his rights are protected and his immunity from abuse and harassment, from governing officials, government agents, landlords/landladies and all kinds of “big men” and madams, is guaranteed by the laws of the land. And that he feels secured in the knowledge that his right to partake in the wealth of his country is inviolable.
It is not the will of God that the generality of Nigerians live in insufferable social and economic conditions because a disproportionate percentage of the nation’s wealth is stolen by a privileged few. It is a perversion of the will of God that the Nigerian political class remains contemptuously indifferent to the continually increasing economic plight of the Nigerian masses. It is against the will of God that government agents, especially, the police, ride roughshod over Nigerians and extort money from them and arrest the innocent, consign them to dirty, bug-ridden and dingy cells; and demand “bail” money for their release. And so on and so forth.
In the United States of America, African American men of God driven by the Christian attributes of courage and self-sacrifice rose up against societal evils, especially, racial injustice, that militated against the will of God in America. In South Africa, men of God, motivated by Christ-like qualities of courage and commitment to social justice fought against the distortion of the will of God in South Africa as embodied in that iniquitous racial policy, Apartheid.
Armed with the power of the word of God and the sanctity of the pulpit, the Nigerian men of God are not confronting the societal vices militating against the will of God in Nigeria. Why are they not speaking out against the forces of greed and wickedness that are subverting the will of God in Nigeria? Why are they not asking our conscienceless rulers to change their evil ways, and stop looting the national wealth? Why are they not urging them to obey the laws of the country and uphold their political and moral responsibilities to the Nigerian people?
This must be because they lack the Christ-like attributes of courage and selflessness, and are invariably, cowardly, selfish and materialistic, and consequently, desperately seeking the friendship and validation of the same power elite that is subverting the will of God in Nigeria.
Is it possible for men of God to be cowardly, selfish and wealth-conscious, and as a result, shamelessly fawning over morally bankrupt power elite? Yes, it is possible, if they are disobedient to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which teaches the equality of all men, and have therefore, taken to worshiping the rich and despising the poor; if they have forsaken the weightier things of the gospel for the vanities of this world; and if they have convoluted the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and instead of preaching righteousness, love, kindness, contentment, they preach prosperity, materialism and greed.
In addition, it is possible, if, instead of demonstrating the Christ like qualities of selflessness, modest lifestyle, kindness and concern for the well-being of others (especially, for the poor, weak and needy), they exemplify greed, self-indulgence, ostentation, selfish ambition, profligacy, and contempt for the poor and needy.
Tochukwu Ezukanma writes from Lagos, Nigeria.