An elderly man from a West African country was visiting the United States for the first time. On the drive home from the airport, he beheld the beauty of his environment and exclaimed, “My daughter, all I want is to lie down on the ground here and rest without being disturbed ever. A few days after his arrival, he indeed lay down to sleep, but never got up. His daughter insisted on burying him in the United States, since he already indicated the place he wanted to rest undisturbed forever. The deceased man was taken in by the technological advancement he saw around him and considered that to be heaven – the desired final destination of every soul.
In many ways, as Africans, we hold up an image of Western nations as being close to heaven. Therefore, we fall into the trap of copying a world system rife with as much imperfections as can be found in any system built by man. However, the mandate on every African Christian is to work towards a recreation of the Garden of Eden in his community. With due respect for the achievements of the United States and other Western nations, no place in this world today is anything close to the Garden of Eden.
Residents and citizens of the West yearn for a better society. Depression and suicide rates continue to grow across Western nations, an indication that men and women in those societies crave Eden, that ideal environment in which man was created to thrive. The Garden of Eden was a place of peace, tranquility, innovation, creativity, absolute trust and bliss.
The blueprint for Africa’s transformation to the Garden Eden cannot be found in the West; neither is it in the East. It is in the Word of God. If the Word of God dwells richly in the African Christian, Eden will be easily recreated. Therefore, rather than seek to occupy or to copy the United States and other nations, the African Christian should strive to focus on what God has called him/her to do in Africa through His Word.
Satan introduced the distrust of God in the heart of man, leading to man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Yet, just as fish was created to thrive in water, birds in the air and ants on the ground, man’s expulsion did not expunge Eden from his DNA. Within Man retains an insatiable craving to return or to recreate that natural environment in which he was created to thrive. This craving is embedded in man’s DNA and is passed on from generation to generation.
After man fell, God, in his infinite mercy and loving kindness, devised a plan to empower man to recreate Eden within himself and around his environment (John 3:16). That plan was completed in Jesus Christ His son who was sent to reconcile God to Man (Romans 5:10). She who believes in Christ gains inward strength to live a righteous life and to build righteousness in her environment (Colossian 1:20-22). Righteousness brings peace, joy, and light in the form of inward and outward security, creativity, innovation, beauty, order and a stress free living.
Creating the Garden of Eden, for the African Christian, starts with inward peace despite external conditions. Counterintuitive as that might seem, it is inward peace that gives strength to transform the external environment. In the absence of inward peace, transformation of the external environment becomes difficult. But the question is, how possible is it for one to be at peace within if her outer environment is filled with conflicts and unfulfilled expectations? How is the man to be at peace when he lives in a one bedroom apartment with his entire family, and has to bath outside and share one restroom with 15 other families? How is the woman who is worried about her child’s school fees have inward peace? How is the one who lives in a country where war is looming, or ongoing, expected to be at peace? How possible is it to be at peace when around us we hear stories of robbery, rape, murder, kidnap, hunger, sickness, sudden and untimely death, hunger and all other manifestations of evil?
The answer is in the very thing man was robbed of in the Garden of Eden, which is absolute trust and belief in the goodness and ability of God. Adam and Eve believed in the goodness of God’s intentions towards them until Satan came along and sowed seeds of doubt. Restoration of man to Eden, therefore, demands a return to the pre-Fall state of mind; a trust and confidence in God and in His ability to restore, heal and deliver through His son Jesus Christ.
The Garden of Eden begins as a mental place that is constructed from the blocks of inner purity found in Christ Jesus. We have peace when we trust in God and try our best to do what His word says to do regardless of situation or circumstance (Philippians 4: 6-7). We are to be anxious for nothing and, because of that, we are strengthened to build and establish processes and systems for transformation (Philippians 4:12).
While the African Christian should be humble and open to learn from other parts of the world, the goal of the African Christian is not to re-create the ultra capitalist system of Europe and the United States that, attractive on the surface as it may seem, has robbed man of peace, tranquility, cooperation, community and regard for the human spirit. It is a system that has turned men into competitors, individualistic lovers of self, fleshly lusts and mammon, rather than seekers of God and lovers of their fellow men. Indeed, the mandate of the African Christian is not to recreate the West which seeks to rationalize and normalize so many actions considered sinful in the Holy Scriptures. The goal of the African Christian should remain to use God’s word as blueprint to build Eden or God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
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