For so long Africans have been subjected to the Euro-American interpretations of Christianity, which, among other misrepresentations, barely acknowledges the central contributions of Africa(ns) to the foundations and growth of Christianity globally. However, in his infinite wisdom, God the Father, in trying to save humanity, allowed Africa(ns) to play a critical role in the birth, death and resurrection of his only begotten son. Without the crucial role played by Africa(ns), it is possible that Jesus Christ’s goal of saving humanity might have been cut short in infancy or truncated just before the nail pierced his hands and feet on Mount Calvary.
Africa in the Birth of Jesus
First, when the wise men from the East visited King Herod and told him of a great star they saw, which as they supernaturally deciphered, symbolized the birth of the greatest king to ever rule the earth, Herod was outraged and jealous. Having concluded in his heart to snuff the life out of the child, he asked the wise men to go ahead and locate the child and then bring him news in order that he, King Herod, might also worship this great king.
After the wise men found baby Jesus and presented expensive gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense, they prepared to return to Herod and inform him of the success of their trip. In a vision, however, angels warned them of the fatal intentions of the King and instructed them to return home via another route. According to Scripture, “When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”
There were many alternatives open to God in terms of how to protect his infant son from the wicked King Herod. He could have snuffed the life out of Herod the very same night he purposed to kill baby Jesus. Or God could have sent a consignment of warrior angels to protect his son from King Herod’s hatchet men. He could have caused seven days of gross darkness, a mighty earthquake or just about anything imaginable to startle the life out of Herod. However, God chose to send his son to Africa as a place of refuge. Some Bible scholars opine that God did so because it is his principle not to perform miracles when the same goal can be accomplished naturally. If food could grow in the desert, he would not have sent manna, for instance. If the natural thing to do in the face of disaster is to flee to safety, then God was not going to perform a miracle in its stead.
Yet, if fleeing to safety is a natural response to the machinations of King Herod to cut short God’s plan for the salvation of humanity, why put a new mother and baby through several tens of kilometers through the hot wilderness desert to Egypt in Africa? The instruction from the Angel was specific and detailed, “Arise and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you….” A recourse to history will be useful in unravelling this mystery. At a time when they were about to be annihilated by famine, Egypt became a place of refuge for the founding fathers of the Jews, led by Jacob. Essentially, without Africa, the nation of Israel, being the very first people chosen by God to display his righteousness, plans and purposes for humanity, might never have been established—they might not have survived the famine. When God wanted to move beyond the nation of Israel to establish salvation for all of humanity and nations of the earth, Africa again became a place of refuge where baby Jesus was incubated and nurtured in his earliest, most important stage of life formation.
Africa in the Death of Jesus
After having lived his life successfully, with neither sin nor blemish, it was time for Jesus to yield his body as a final sacrificial atonement for mankind’s freedom from the clutches of the devil. Willingly, Jesus began the journey to his painful crucifixion. Starving, thirsty, psychologically decimated, tortured and finally flagellated by the notorious Roman soldiers, a fainting Jesus was made to carry a cross, estimated to be between 200 and 300 pounds and to walk thousands of feet in thejourney to the place of crucifixion. It was obvious that the Son of Man could not advance further.
As prophesied throughout the Old Testament, the salvation of mankind was to be achieved on the cross; anything short of that, such as collapsing and giving up the ghost under the heavy cross on the way to the crucifixion arena, would have meant a truncation of God’s plan. Salvation would have eluded humanity!
Again, an African became a person of refuge for Jesus Christ and for the eternal plans and purposes of God for humanity. Just before Jesus could breathe his last under the heaviness of the cross, Simon of Cyrene, a country in today’s Libya, stepped up and heaved the heavy load off Christ’s shoulders. Simon the African would faithfully, lovingly and willingly carry Jesus’ cross until the place of crucifixion, allowing the Son of Man to save his last breath, which he willingly yielded upon the cross in exchange for man’s freedom from the sinful nature. What would have become of Jesus’ destiny on earth can only be imagined or speculated had Simon the African not carried the cross of Christ.
Africa’s Place in God’s Divine Agenda for Mankind
Africa has historically been a place of deliverance in God’s plan and purposes for humanity. Africans must arise and begin to live up to their hugely significant, even decisive, role in global transformation. One person at a time, Africans will have to begin to build a continent that will be a place of intellectual, social, political, spiritual and economic refuge for the rest of humanity. Rather than copy other systems and search for role models in the East and in the West on how to think and build, Africans should, by faith in the divine destiny of the continent, set to task in the construction of a community of people of truth, righteousness, mercy and graciousness. Considering Africa’s pre-eminent role in the two most significant events in Christ’s life, Africans are uniquely empowered with the authentic knowledge, ideas and resources necessary to actively bring transformation in global affairs across sectors.