It’s Good Friday
Nigerian Christians today join others across the world in celebrating Good Friday, the day of the good death as it were. It is the central article of faith for Christians that Christ’s redemption is hinged upon his death and resurrection. Good Friday represents the apogee of the season of passion when Jesus suffered the ultimate humiliation of crucifixion on the cross; when he paid the ultimate price for the salvation of the world. The multitude of believers across the world today, and a succession of believers through the over 2000-year history of Christianity celebrate his death for its vicarious and atoning value.
Good Friday in Christianity caps the 40-day period of Lent, which like the Muslim Ramadan is characterised by prayer, fasting, works of charity, self-denial, self-mortification and the pursuit of other high spiritual and moral virtues. The name itself may appear to be a misnomer. Ordinarily, this Friday should be a day of sorrow and of mourning over the death of an innocent person who did no harm to anyone, but who was nevertheless hated, humiliated and crucified for proclaiming the truth as he knew it. What is good about this day of wickedness and death, one may ask. But taken within the context of atonement and seen in the light of the resurrection and the salvation he won for believers through his death, it is understandable that this Friday should be universally acclaimed “Good Friday” by Christians all over the world.
The celebration of Good Friday by Christians in Nigeria is to be appraised within our unique context. We live in a society with so much religious piety on display, yet the degree of individual or group fidelity to the higher values and virtues that authentic religion promotes, is a matter of contention. Whereas the Christian by his or her faith commitment to Jesus Christ, is meant to be in the world but not of the world with all its corrupt influences, Nigerian Christians find it hard to distinguish themselves from the rot that is prevalent in the land. Whereas the Christian is supposed to be a light in the midst of darkness, and a sign of contradiction to a corrupt society, Nigerian Christians have the tendency to join the bandwagon in a life of debauchery.
The tendency of the Nigerian Christian to go through the motions of the rituals of worship without living out the injunctions on a daily basis is a major source of concern to critical observers within and outside the country. Rather than project the paradox of Good Friday, Christians here readily collude with the forces of darkness, and join the crowd whose attitudinal tendencies often portray the country in bad light. Ours is a country that is so numbed by the paralysis of grand corruption, a notoriety that has assailed not only all arms of government but also various levels of society, including the corporate and even the religious. Leaders and public officers have become so brazen in the criminal engagement of treasury looting, that stealing in billions rather than millions of naira has become the new attraction.
Our country harbours leaders of many hues. Some are in a fight to pull the country out of recession, to stabilise the ailing currency and chart the course for economic recovery and growth, to stem the bleeding and destruction occasioned by acts of terrorism and social strife, and to bail out a country bogged down by perpetrators of monumental corruption and their sympathisers. At the same time some others are enmeshed in idle self-serving political manoeuvres and the display of sickening quixotic shenanigans in high places. And yet, in these embarrassing scenarios and as the society often celebrates rogue leaders, Christians and non-Christians alike are today presented with the graphic image of Jesus Christ, the true servant leader, who died on the cross that his people may have abundant life.
As Nigerian Christians join their counterparts worldwide to mark Good Friday, the occasion challenges everyone to engage in genuine soul-searching and recognise today’s crisis in our society as an opportunity to begin the process of individual and corporate transformation. Beyond the ritual of re-enacting the crucifixion and other acts celebrating the passion of Christ on this day and around this time, Good Friday is significant as a day of meditation on the Cross and its significance for the Christian, and for all who are committed to the higher values that give meaning to life. We can today begin to build an egalitarian society driven by concerns for the common good, if the leadership elite embrace the kind of sacrificial love exemplified by Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary.