Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was a busy person when he walked physically on this earth several centuries ago. When Jesus started his ministry, he knew that he had only about three years to accomplish his great mission. The salvation of the whole world rested on his shoulders. There was no time to waste. With his feet and legs as the means of transportation and no information communication technology gadgets available, Jesus had to make tactical and strategic use of his limited time to make the maximum impact. The most efficient way to accomplish the mission was to spend a great deal of time speaking to the crowds in person in order to convey the Good News to as many people as possible. That meant that there must have been a limit to which individuals could pull him away for private discussions or assistance.
That was the situation in which a centurion at Capernaum found himself, as recorded in Luke Chapter 7. A centurion was a soldier who commanded about one hundred men in the Roman army. The centurion’s servant whom he loved and valued dearly was sick and dying. The centurion had heard of Jesus and believed that Jesus could heal his servant, but did not know how to reach Jesus to present his request. As many of us do when we want access to an important person, the centurion approached the Jewish elders whom he knew had connections to Jesus and asked them to intercede on his behalf so that Jesus would go and heal his servant.
I believe this was not an easy assignment for the Jewish elders. Many of the Jewish elders and the Pharisees loved Jesus the way a cat loves a mouse! Many of them had rejected him as the Messiah and questioned the source of his powers. However, they recognized what the centurion had done for them and wanted to help him in his time of need. Therefore, they swallowed their pride, put enmity aside, and went to Jesus and told him that: “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” That was one of the few instances mentioned in the Bible when the Jewish elders went to Jesus with a genuine request, rather than a tricky question to trap him. They also did not mind the source of Jesus’ powers or the fact that they were inviting him to the home of a Gentile. Jesus went with them.
It is not entirely clear what moved Jesus to make room in his busy schedule to accompany them. It could have been the faith of the centurion; the centurion’s extraordinary love for his servant; the wonderful testimony about the centurion’s good deeds which showed his love for God and country; the earnest pleas by the Jewish elders; Jesus’ compassion for the sick servant; or a combination of them. Later on, Jesus, in amazement, praised the centurion’s faith when the centurion came and told him not to bother to come home, but to simply say the word and the servant would be healed. Jesus did not disappoint him; he healed the servant without going to the house. The centurion was a remarkable man. Many powerful men would not show that much concern for a sick and dying servant and put their own reputation on the line to beg others for help. They would simply look for a healthy servant and abandon the sick servant rather than demean themselves. While we may never know for certain the single most important factor that moved Jesus to accompany the Jewish elders, we know what moved the Jewish elders to lead the centurion to Jesus: the centurion’s love for their country and the fact that he built their synagogue. Lessons learned: Love your country and love God. Doors could open for you!
In these difficult times, it is not easy for many Ghanaians to love our country Ghana. They cite many real problems that stand in the way of their love for Ghana and conclude that Ghana does not deserve their love. They may have a point, but what would help move Ghana forward is the realization that each and every one of us can play a role, however small, towards the country’s development. Unconditional love is what we need to practice -- the love that makes us want to contribute to the development of Ghana even when everything seems that we should not.
Let me suggest a practical approach that might make it easier for you to love Ghana. First, separate the government of Ghana from the country Ghana. Governments come and go, but the country Ghana remains basically unchanged. Once you separate them, the party or government in power or its performance becomes irrelevant in your decision-making process. Second, focus on the people, one Ghanaian at a time, starting with your immediate family to the extended family, but do not end there. Many people are already doing the family part; we just need to quicken the pace, increase our contributions, and enlarge our territories beyond the family and regional borders to other parts of the country. We should not be distracted by the everyday problems because the more the problems, the greater the need, and the greater should be our sacrifices. You do not need to be physically present in Ghana to help fellow Ghanaians. There are some Ghanaians in this world who, by virtue of their positions, can help Ghanaians in various parts of the world. If you are a Ghanaian in such a position, seize the opportunity to help Ghanaians wherever you are.
Third, among the people, concentrate on development of the children. If you live in Ghana or visit Ghana, practice random acts of kindness to Ghanaian children. Many children in Ghana risk their lives each day selling low-cost products in the middle of the streets under the scorching sun when they should be in school or training for a trade. Some have lost their parents and others have parents who can no longer take care of them financially. We should be each other’s keeper. For example, it would be a good demonstration of love if you could pull one of these children off the street and sponsor him or her through school or training regardless of the part of the country from which the child comes. Your investment shall not be in vain. Those children have already shown perseverance and entrepreneurial skills by risking their very lives to make a modest living. You could be grooming the next successful entrepreneur. As Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40).
If you truly love your country and the people therein, love for God may become a little easier because the two are intertwined. Our love for people may demonstrate our love for God and vice versa. The Bible says that anyone who does not love his brother whom he sees, cannot love God whom he does not see. If we love God, we must also love our brother. In other words, if we say we love God, but hate our brother, we are liars (I John 4:20-21).
In reply to a lawyer’s question about the greatest commandment, Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-38). The centurion demonstrated his love for God by building a synagogue for the Jews. Much earlier in history, King David wanted to build a temple for God, but God denied him that opportunity. God told him that his son Solomon would be given that honour to build the temple (2 Samuel 7). Remember that Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God, but Cain’s was rejected and Abel’s was accepted by God. (Genesis 4). Therefore, we should count it all joy when we have the opportunity to contribute to the building of the Church or the work of God, and pray that our contributions and sacrifices would be acceptable in God’s sight. Of course, not everyone would have the means to build a Church, but all of us have the opportunity in our daily lives to show our love for others, especially our fellow Ghanaians. Our true love for people can blur the line between love for God and love for country or between Church and state. What we need is an appropriate re-allocation of our resources such that we render more of our time, talents, and treasures unto God than we render unto Caesar.
Interestingly, it appears that the centurion was neither a Jew nor a worshipper at the synagogue. Yet, he loved the Jewish nation and built a synagogue for them. Talk about enlarging one’s territory beyond family and country, an inspiration to those of us living outside Ghana to also love our adopted countries in addition to our native country Ghana! If we do that, someday, Jesus himself may commend us that we loved our country and we loved God.
Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.
Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.
PrayerHouse Ministry is dedicated to providing a quiet facility for Christians to pray individually by themselves without any intermediary priest, pastor or any other person. This is a free service. No money is demanded or accepted. The facility is located at Kyerekrom / Fumesua, near Building and Road Research Institute Offices, one mile off the Kumasi-Accra Road and next to a house called Grace Castle. If you are interested, please contact Agnes at 027-7423815.