Christians worldwide annually mark Easter to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind. A sacred season, this year’s event began on Good Friday, April 14, 2017, and ended yesterday on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017. Among the Catholic faithful, Easter also marks the end of a 40-day long period of fasting or Lent, observed by devotees. The biblical story of sinless Jesus Christ who was unjustly crucified by Jewish religious leaders and his shocking, earthshaking resurrection from the grave on the third day is one of the mysteries in the Bible.
However, beyond the story, it is a lesson of love, discipline and self-sacrifice. The cardinal scripture that explains the lessons is found in John 15 verses 12 and 13. Here Jesus is quoted as explaining his impending death to His disciples by saying, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This scripture is timeless, hence according to Christian tradition, Jesus did not speak to only His disciples but to all of humanity. A significant and indisputable Christian doctrine says the death and resurrection of Christ were to open the door for the forgiveness of sins to mankind.
In his Easter Homily, Pope Francis II spoke about the fact that though Christians do not see Christ physically today, He is with all those in one pain or another. He said, “The Risen Shepherd walks beside all those forced to leave their homelands as a result of armed conflicts, terrorist attacks, famine and oppressive regimes… He guide[s] the steps of all those who work for justice and peace. May He grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”
The message of Easter is that Jesus so loved humanity that he had to give up his life for our sake and by doing so, He commands men to ‘love one another.’ Jesus set for us an example by laying down his life ‘for his friends.’ The meaning of ‘friends’ here is extended from those who obey Jesus to all humanity, made up of the wicked, the unbelieving, the idolaters, the adulterers, and those who do things that are, sometimes, too weighty for the tongue to utter. The love of Jesus is all-encompassing.
Here is the challenge for us as Nigerians. We should learn from Jesus and begin to love one another. With Jesus, humanity is one - no differences of race, tribe, state, religion. By His teachings and examples, he proved that it is possible to eschew discrimination and prejudices that lead to conflicts, destructions and death. This message is especially relevant to the Nigerian nation which suffers multiple injuries from ethnic, religious, political and economic conflicts. Boko Haram killings, kidnapping, armed robbery, pen robbery, ritual human sacrifices and all manners of corrupt practices that have retarded the political, social and economic growth of the country provide evidence that there is the lack of love, discipline and sacrifice in Nigeria.
Political leaders and the led in Nigeria should imbibe the virtues of love and sacrifice in order to bring about peace in the country. President Muhammadu Buhari alluded to this in his Easter message when he said, “It is in our collective interest to live in peace because without peace, no meaningful and sustainable development can take place. Lack of peace in one part affects in one way or the other all parts of the country. Our people must rediscover the values of peaceful co-existence, social justice, religious tolerance, the dignity of labour and patriotism…”
The lesson of Easter is not to only Christians but to all Nigerians across religious, ethnic and social backgrounds. We must learn love, disciple and sacrifice from the examples of Jesus Christ, because without these virtues, we cannot attain the height of our potentials as a nation.
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