The historian’s goal is not to collect the “facts” about the past but rather to…
TEACHINGS THAT WILL FOSTER UNITY
The Bible contains teachings that will foster greater unity among the various denominations in Nigeria.
- Faith and works.
When we practice the teachings of: Christian Giving, Faith and Works, Humility, Impartiality and Forgiveness among ourselves, there will be greater unity and co-operation among the various denominations.
1) Faith and Works (James 1:22-27): In the teaching of James, Faith represents the Christian moral teachings of good conduct as revealed to us in the teachings of Jesus Christ. Works then would mean putting the moral teachings of Jesus into practice in the Christian life. The moral teachings include: Love, honesty, truthfulness, forgiveness, humility, faithfulness and charity. The faith of a Christian who does not practice these virtues is dead. Such a person is not a true Christian. Thus, a true Christian is one who combines Faith and Works. This is the message of James.
According to James, no one can lay claim to being a good Christian unless he puts into daily practice all the will of God as preached by Jesus. James illustrated this truth with the analogy of someone who observes his face in a mirror. Such a person is a mere hearer of the word of God. This is because after observing his face in a mirror, he soon forgets what he looks like, as he turns away from the mirror.
On the other hand, a ‘doer of the word’ is one who looks into the perfect law – Jesus Christ, which is the law of liberty; and with perseverance does not forget easily, but acts on it. Such a person receives God’s blessings.
James goes on to say that the true religious man (the doer of the word) must control his tongue. Anyone who fails to discipline his tongue deceives himself and his religion is vain.
James said that true religion involves visiting orphans and widows and keeping oneself unstained from the world, that is, maintaining purity before God.
The Significance of St. James’ teaching on Faith and Works: By stressing Faith and Works, James married theory and practice in Christian life. What is expected of us as Christians is to practice what we believe. This is the only way we can portray ourselves as true Christians to the outside world. As Christians, we can do this in various ways. The first is by living an upright Christian life by being clean in thought, feeling, word and deed. The second is by preaching the word of God with a view of making sinners turn away from their bad ways and accept Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord and Saviour. The third is fully participating in God’s work as a full member of any Christian congregation; in their choir, youth clubs, and voluntary service, and so on. Finally, we put our faith into practice by being good Christian citizens and good examples to others at all times. All this we must do with the help of the Holy Spirit.
2) Humility: A humble person is one who is law abiding. He obeys rules and regulations without being told to do so. He is polite in speech and conduct. He does not jump the queue, but waits patiently for his turn. He is not proud, arrogant or boastful. If he is rich, he does not display his wealth to the annoyance of the poor. If he is knowledgeable, he does not show off his knowledge to the face of those who are not as clever or as bright as himself. He is willing to serve in any capacity and in any part of the nation where his services are most needed. He executes orders to the best of his ability in the interest of the people and the country without asking for any reward. He gives the credit to God for all his achievements. Both Paul and Peter, in their teaching on humility in relation to Christian living, spoke on the need for all Christians to imbibe humility and to manifest it in their lives. While Paul drew his model on humility from the example of Jesus Christ, Peter saw humility as the opposite of pride.
Paul’s teaching on Humility (Philippians 2:1-11): In his Letter to the Philippians, Paul urges us, as Christians to possess a sense of love. We should share in the spirit, affection and sympathy in order to complete the joy of being Christians by being in harmony with one another. He warns Christians to desist from any act of selfishness and pride. Rather, they should be humble. Being humble means putting the interest of others before our own. Christians should imitate Christ Jesus, whose humility should be a good example for them:
Jesus was in the form of God, but he did not equate himself with God.
Instead, he humbled himself as a servant, until the point of death. As a result of Jesus’ humility, God had highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is higher than any other name, and at the mention of the name of Jesus, every knee in both heaven and on earth, should bow. And, every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.
Peter’s teaching on Humility: (1 Peter 5:5-11): Peter began his teachings on humility by advising young Christians to be subjected to their elders and to clothe themselves with humility towards one another. This is because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Since God loves the humble, He would in due time exalt the young Christians. As such, there should be no room for anxiety, for God cares for His children. However, Christians should be very careful the way they conduct themselves. They, as Christians and children of God, should be on the lookout for the devil, the real enemy of all Christians; for the devil prowls around like a lion, seeking whom he wants to devour. He (the devil) does this by deceiving Christians to deny Jesus and join the accursed band of evil doers. Peter said Christians should demonstrate humility by resisting the devil at all cost, with full faith in Christ Jesus.
They should know that suffering and temptations are part of the Christian heritage. If Christians are able to endure all these things through humility, eternal glory in Jesus Christ awaits them.
The Significance of Paul’s and Peter’s teaching on Humility: Paul and Peter stress ‘humility’ as an essential Christian virtue. Hence, by their teaching, they are encouraging Christians to manifest humility in their lives as true Christians. As Christians, we can show humility in our lives by rendering honest and selfless service to all men, our Nation and the Church. We demonstrate humility by working in any part of the country where our services are greatly needed, especially in the rural areas. We display humility when we show respect to constituted authority in the home, school, Church, community, State and Nation. We also show humility when we are not boastful and proud about our successes and achievements, but in all humbleness give the glory and honour to God, through Jesus Christ.
3) Impartiality (James 2:1-13): To be partial is to discriminate. It is to deny a person certain rights and privileges as a result of his race, tribe, sex, religion or political belief. For example, there are some political parties who discriminate against members of other political parties and either deny them social amenities or refuse to develop their areas. A person may also be discriminated against because of his social status, that is, for being an outcast, poor or uneducated. Poor people are discriminated against at social gatherings where they are not accorded any recognition. Even in the Church, the poor are treated differently from the rich. Partiality is bad because we are all created by God, and are God’s children. Discrimination is unfair because we are all equal in the sight of God. Partiality is an act of social injustice. It is a denial of a person’s fundamental human rights. It is a crime against humanity.
James exposed partiality in the Church of his day and called upon all Christians to condemn partiality and promote impartiality through social justice. By practicing impartiality, we can help to bring about justice, peace, unity and progress in our respective countries in West Africa.
James discovered that there was a problem of partiality in the Church whereby the poor were discriminated against. He sought to correct this social evil through his Letter. James began by telling his hearers not to show partiality. This is because they hold the faith of Jesus Christ which was invoked upon them at baptism. He warned them not to give room for class distinction among themselves. They should not regard the rich people more important than the poor ones when both of them are invited to public gatherings. Some of them rush to give the best seats to the rich who are well dressed with gold rings on them when they come to public assembly and tell the poorly dressed to sit on the bare floor or stand at the back. Such people are warned to desist from this show of partiality. By acting in this way, they prove themselves as biased judges with partial judgement.
James made them to understand that those that are poor in the world are chosen by God and made rich in faith to be rightful heirs of the Kingdom of God, which is promised to all those who obey and love God.
James accused them of dishonouring the poor people among them in an attempt to respect the rich. But, the funny thing is that, it is the same rich people who now turn to oppress them. They drag them to court where they obtain no justice. It is the same rich who blaspheme the good name of the Lord.
James concluded by advising all Christians to observe the royal law which says:
“Love your neighbour as yourself.
If they continue to show partiality, they commit sin and are convicted by the law. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point is guilty of all of it. If one commits adultery, but does not kill, one is guilty of breaking the law.
Therefore, all our thoughts and actions must be consistent with the law of liberty. A Christian who fails to show mercy to the oppressed will receive God’s condemnation.
The Significance of James’ teaching on Impartiality: James’ teaching on impartiality raises the whole issue of partiality and social injustice in our society today. There is widespread partiality and social injustice in all aspects of public life. In the public service for example, there is partiality on the grounds of tribe, sex or religion in appointments, promotions and in the award of scholarships and contracts. There is discrimination in commercial banks when loan applications are being treated. There is partiality in the distribution of social amenities in the country. There is favouritism in the appointment of traditional rulers and honouring of chiefs. There is discrimination in the admission of candidates into government colleges and higher institutions. There is partiality in the dispensation of justice when the judiciary is influenced by discriminatory practices. Even the Church is not spared. In the house of God, there is partiality when allocation of offices or committees or seats is made.
It is the duty of Christians to promote impartiality by speaking out against partiality in all its ramifications in the society and by joining forces with other Christians to fight, within the confines of the law, for its total eradication. We can use the mass media to protest and condemn partiality by corrupt judges, the caste system, tribalism, nepotism and favouritism. We can also promote impartiality by not discriminating against anyone and treating people from all other tribes in the Nation as equals. By respecting the rights of women, children and minorities, we further help to promote impartiality in a practical way. All this we must do with the help of the Holy Spirit.
4) Forgiveness: To forgive is to pardon a person for an offence he or she has committed. The wrongdoer deserves to be punished, but he is allowed to go free. When the offender realizes that what he has done is bad and asks to be pardoned, he can be forgiven. He is forgiven on the condition that the offence will not be repeated. When forgiveness is granted in this way, the two people involved are reconciled. With this reconciliation the former good relationship between the two parties, which was broken, is restored. Thus, forgiveness brings about peace, love, unity, friendship and happiness. In his Letter to Philemon, St. Paul stresses on the need for forgiveness and calls upon all Christians to make it an essential part of our relationship with one another.
Paul’s teaching on: ‘Forgiveness’: (Galatians 6:1-2; Philemon 1-25) Paul’s teaching on forgiveness is contained in his Letter to the Galatians and the Letter to Philemon. In Galatians, Paul advised that if any member of the Church is in need of forgiveness, he or she should be forgiven and be treated with gentleness. In Philemon 1-25, Paul wrote to a devout Colossianchristian known as Philemon. The Letter was an appeal. Paul’s Letter to Philemon was an appeal to Philemon to forgive his slave, Onesimus and take him back. Onesimus had wronged his master and escaped to Rome. Onesimus had met Paul who had been imprisoned in Rome. He (Onesimus) had converted to Christianity and had become closely attached to Paul by rendering useful services to him. Paul became convinced that Onesimus had become ‘sincerely sorry’ for his misconduct after confessing to his crime. Paul therefore sent him back to his master, Philemon with a letter of appeal, inspired by the love of Christ.
Paul began the letter by congratulating Philemon on his love in the service of God, pointing out his immense joy for Philemon’s goodness to the saints of the church. As his mentor, Paul claimed that he had the right to command Philemon to do whatever he wanted him to do. But for God’s sake, he preferred to appeal to Philemon’s good sense to urge him to take back Onesimus, not so much as a slave, but as a Christian brother. Onesimus had formerly, by his action, been useless to Philemon; but by becoming a Christian, he had become more useful and worthy to be taken back. Paul would have preferred to retain Onesimus, but the decision must be taken by Philemon himself. If Onesimus had owed him (Philemon) anything or made him suffer any financial losses, he (Paul) would surely pay it off during his next visit. Paul told Philemon to prepare a guest house for him in readiness for his next visit.
The Significance of Paul’s teaching on Forgiveness: Paul’s teaching on forgiveness is important in two aspects: It teaches social equality and the need for forgiveness. By asking Philemon to accept Onesimus as a Christian brother and no longer as a slave, Paul is teaching us to accept others as our social equals. This calls for equal treatment of house-helps or servants in the home. Servants should enjoy equal treatment in feeding, clothing and lodging as the children of the home. Christians should preach against the practice whereby some people are considered as slaves, and denied certain rights. An example is the Osu caste system among the Ibos. It is the practice of some wealthy Christians to look down on the poor and refuse to accept them as equals. By Paul’s teaching, this is completely anti-Christian and all Christians must condemn this, if possible, by the aid of the mass media among others. Furthermore, discrimination based on race (colour of skin) or tribalism, anywhere in this world should be condemned.
Apart from the lesson on social equality, Paul’s teaching on forgiveness brings out the need for forgiveness among Christians. As Christians, we should have a forgiving spirit at all times. We need to forgive because Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, asked us to forgive one another’s sins. If we refuse to forgive others their sins, then God would not forgive us our sins also. Forgiveness is good because it restores peace and love in the family, school, community, State and the Nation. Therefore, as Christians, we should go out of our way to reconcile differences among others on the basis of love. The reconciliation must include restoration of love on the basis of Christian brotherhood. There is satisfaction and joy in forgiving others. This is because forgiving others has a psychological cleansing effect in that by giving rather than receiving in the process of forgiving, we attract God’s love and satisfaction, and joy naturally wells up in our hearts.
Religious Guidance and Counselling
God wants you to give generously for a worthy cause
Some of you are good. You give money generously for any worthy cause. You give money cheerfully to beggars, the poor and the needy. That is very good. God loves a cheerful giver and He will reward you abundantly.
But some of you are not good. You do not give generously for a worthy cause. You refuse to give money to beggars, the poor and the needy. This is not good. You must change.
God wants all of you to give generously for a worthy cause because He loves and rewards cheerful givers.
God wants you to combine faith with works
It is not easy for us to combine faith and works all the time. This is because we rely on our own strength to do so. And we fail because of the evil influence of the devil that does not want us to succeed in combining faith and works. But Jesus can help us out of this problem.
Therefore, you must pray to God through Jesus to deliver you from the evil influence of the devil and help you combine faith and works.
God wants you to manifest humility in your lives as true Christians
It is difficult to manifest humility in our Christian life all the time. We find it hard to be obedient, polite and patient always. Some of the time, we are proud, arrogant or boastful. Jesus was humble himself, and so he can help us out of the problem.
Therefore, God wants all of you to call upon Jesus to practice humility at all times so that you can live as true Christians.
God wants you to practice impartiality
Most of the time, we find it difficult to practice impartiality. We practice partiality against fellow Nigerians. This does not help to promote peace (peaceful coexistence), unity and progress in your community (Nation). But Jesus is there to help us deal with this problem in Christian living.
Therefore, God wants all of you to call upon Jesus to help you to practice impartiality so at to promote peace, unity and progress.
God wants you to practice forgiveness at all times
It is not easy for us to practice forgiveness at all times. Only Jesus can help us do that.
Hence you must all pray to God through Jesus to help you forgive at all times so that you can help promote peace, love, unity, friendship and happiness in the home, school and in the community.
Religious and Moral Lessons
- The Philippians donated money for the welfare of Paul while he was in prison in Rome. You must learn to donate money for the welfare of those in need, like the Philippians did.
- Jesus, though rich, became poor so that we might become rich. You must learn to follow Jesus’ good example by donating generously.
- God supplies the needs of those who give abundantly for a worthy cause. You must learn to give abundantly for a worthy cause for God to supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.
- A true Christian is one who combines faith and works. You must learn to pray to Jesus to help you to always combine faith and works.
- Practicing impartiality helps to promote justice, peaceful co-existence, unity and progress in the society. You must learn to pray to God through Jesus to help you practice impartiality so as to promote justice, peace, unity and progress in the society.
- There is widespread partiality and social injustice in the society. You must learn to condemn all forms of partiality and social injustice in the society.
- Forgiveness promotes peace, love, unity, friendship and happiness in the home, school and in the community. You must learn to pray to God through Jesus to help you to practice forgiveness so as to promote peace, love, unity, friendship and happiness in the home, school and in the community.