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Saturday, 11 August 2018 · Basics of Faith

I rush into church just before the organ starts to play so my Dad won’t notice my lateness. I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t think he noticed. I breeze through the motions of the call to worship and praise worship session absentmindedly. Then the vicar announces, “let us pray”. As I sit down and bow my head to pray, I notice that the soles of both pairs of my shoe are semi-detached from the heel. “O God! Wo, I guess I’ll manage it”, I mutter to myself. Mid way through the service, I decide to go home—as per vicar’s daughter privileges—I get to breeze in and out of church whenever I like. I always have to be careful though, so the prying eyes of the “senior members” don’t see me flit in and out too much. I’m almost at the entrance to my house when one of the soles detaches itself completely from the heel. “Chai God, thank you o. See how you saved me from embarrassment. That’s how I’d have gone for Communion and embarrassed my ancestors in front of the congregation and that fine boy that just came from America.” I rush upstairs to change my shoes. I’m trying to buckle on the new shoes when I hear the Sunday school session going on downstairs, in the hall, just opposite the vicarage. The teacher announces the topic for the day, “Children, the topic for today is Hell Fire. What did I say?” I listen in shock as the children scream back, “Hell Fire!”
Wait what!? Are you kidding me right now? I’m totally amazed at how these 5 year olds are led to believe that there’s some Big Dude in the sky who’s ready to strike them dead or throw them in the lake of fire if they as much as pick up a pencil wrongfully. Then I remember I was once a victim of this system. You probably were too or still are. What happened to us? What happens to these kids?
Sadly, these young ones would grow up living in fear of punishment like you and I did. Some of them would carry this mentality into adolescence and even adulthood and just resolve in their hearts that since they’re going to end up in hell with as little as a white lie, they’d rather go down there as legends with a thousand and one sins to their name. I was chatting with a friend one day and she told me of how when she was younger, she just made up her mind that Christianity wasn’t for her. She would get serious with God after she’d wed and had like 2 kids. Why?! Her young mind was confused, afraid and found it totally impossible to comprehend living holy and chaste before marriage. Thankfully though, at the moment, Fayokemi has no boyfriend and she’s as chaste as chaste can be and as Christian as they come.
Some may even ‘give their lives to Christ’ but are still slaves to that fear of punishment and hell fire. Then they’re caught up in the sick cycle of a million altar calls. This to me is the worst category ever. It’s like you’re caught in a limbo. I remember what it was like for me at this stage. I was in my early teens. God, I was confused! I remember in secondary school when I was extremely conscious oGraciaateous living, I didn’t want to violate any of the Ten Commandments. Some of them were actually pretty easy to keep. I mean, I wasn’t about to get clay and make for myself any graven image or anything. And I definitely wasn’t married so I couldn’t be exactly guilty of adultery or “husband covetousness”. That was until they broadened the scope of idolatry and told us our earrings could be idols too. The one that posed a serious problem for was the stealing part. I didn’t steal my parent’s money or anything like that. But, when it came to ‘taking’ dodo or meat, I was a pro. Stealing was made even broader so that taking another’s eraser even with the intention of returning it or picking up an ‘abandoned’ item made me feel like the two-horned-red-devil was making my portion of the fire in hell 7 times hotter. 
One day, (I was in Senior Secondary School) I was extremely thirsty and my bunkmate had water. She wasn’t around and that was what complicated the whole situation. Was I to die of thirst (I knew that was extreme) or risk burning in hell for stealing? The whole “trumpet could sound at any time” mantra was ingrained deep in my head. I don’t even remember what I ended up doing but, I do remember that frustrating feeling of being confused and feeling guilty and scared. And every minute of any day I spent in prayer was committed to asking God for forgiveness of my past, present and future sins. The way things were at the time, I probably asked for forgiveness for the sins of my forefathers. I couldn’t study my bible because, frankly, I was tired of seeing how a certain people were going to be punished for planting different crops side by side. You can relate right? My fear stunted my growth. Imagine a plant growing in a dark cupboard refusing to respond to the light stimuli coming through a hole in the cupboard because it’s terrified of the light? It’d be stunted in growth or worse, die. That’s what the system made us. 
Funny enough, they’d teach these kids and us, how God loved the world so dearly that he sent his only son to die for our deepest darkest sins. And I remember when I was really young and how I just couldn’t exactly wrap my little mind around a God who’d be angry enough to throw me in a lake that smells like rotten eggs and who the next Sunday, loves me enough to die for me. My young mind just couldn’t fathom it. Then you and I grew up to fear and reverence of the devil and hellfire more than we did God. True, the red-two-horned-spike-tailed-pitchfork-carrying-fiend was introduced to make us fear the consequences of sin so we wouldn’t fall in. This system wasn’t developed to make us terrified of God. That can’t have been the original intention. I believe that those who brought up the system did so to instill discipline in little children. We were told as kids, “if you steal, you’ll go to hell fire.” This made us want to not steal. It worked to an extent but certainly, those who wanted to steal still stole. However, with it came side effects much worse than the illness they tried to cure. It’s like using an anti-malarial drug and getting pox as a side effect of the “cure”. There’s no denying it caused that we feared and respected the devil more than we did God. The King of anomalies!
Like 70 percent of the time, before reaching my Eureka moment, I didn’t even know if I was a Christian or not. I just couldn’t obey all the rules. I couldn’t keep up. It all became too overwhelming. All that I felt was different from Jesus’ promises of an easy yoke and light burden. At the mere mention of the “rapture” or “apocalypse”, my heart would skip a beat. We were led to fear reading the book of Revelations. It’s like, “lemme not know what’ll happen jere. I’ll know when the end of the world comes”. They failed to teach us however, that apocalypse is actually a “reveal-ation”. It’s nothing like what we were taught. The teachers probably didn’t even know themselves that the literal Greek translation means to unveil or reveal. It is not the end of the world. It is the end of the world as we know it. The Prophecy of the Apocalypse is one of the Bible’s beautiful messages that have been distorted. It’s not of wrath and judgment on us as believers; it’s of our unveiling as children of God. And we know we are Children of God because the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit of this simple truth.         
Some however go through all the stages until they come to the realization of God’s true nature and his plan for the world. I will not fail to remember the struggle it took me to realize what God’s plan for me really is: that he loves me and has good plans for me and the rest of the world. Sadly though, about 70% of these kids may never even attain this. And the few that do would have done so with extreme difficulty. What a heart-wrenching story.
I would end here, trusting that you already attained Eureka above and wish you God’s grace to finish life’s journey victoriously. That’d be horribly presumptuous of me and this article should definitely be more than a finger pointing to the things the system did to us or is doing to us and will do to many other kids. What happens where you are still stuck in the second stage or adamantly refusing to leave the first? What happens where you haven’t discovered in time that God is love and nothing on earth or in heaven could ever separate you from his love? What happens when the mere thought of the apocalypse makes you want to pee your pants? What happens where the brunt of your early morning devotions is occupied with how guilty you feel?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to undermine the reality of hell fire or the punishment that awaits non believers. Surely, the only guarantee for eternal salvation is belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, acceptance of his finished work on the cross and a daily walk in the realities of this faith. Look closely though and you will find that this decision is usually preceded by a fear of punishment in hell which ultimately affects the relationship with God and turns it into a Judge-and-Accused relationship. Then we’re working hard to gain God’s approval. I was a victim of this system; you probably were too. Or you still may be. But know this, as long as you’ve confessed with your mouth that you believe in Jesus, you’re approved by God. Signed, sealed, delivered; you’re his! Quit trying to push a perfectly working G-Class Mercedes. The AC’s on full blast and you’re pushing it through a dusty road in the scorching heat. Jesus is in the Driver’s seat, calling you come in and take your place in the owner’s seat, away from all the heat and noise.
It’s time you, the world and even the Church realizes that the Christian life is not based on “Thou Shall Not’s.” It’s much more than that. Christ did not die on a cross to give us more rules to follow. He died in order to save us so we can obtain the grace to reciprocate the love he’s freely given us. Instead of thinking of God as a law-giver, who sits on a throne waiting to judge you, why not let go of these ideas for a moment and think of him as who he truly is ;a merciful, gracious, faithful loving Father. Yes, he will be our judge in the end but we will be judged by a God who is love. Understand that he doesn’t want to take away your identity, he hopes to fulfill it. He longs for a relationship with us that will permeate every aspect of our lives; work, studies, relationships. The gospel of love should be greater and more widely spread by believers than the gospel of condemnation. 
His unending love is real. Ready to pick us up and dust us off when we fall, giving us the confidence we need to come before him and cry, “Abba Father!” His love, wave after wave, crashes over us and in every passing moment, there’s a subtle reminder, “You are Mine, I am for you, not against you.”    

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