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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Ola



Two things birthed these words…EXCLUSION…and INCLUSION.

Have you ever been excluded?

I’d been. Many times! University of Ibadan excluded me from those that will study medicine in 2005. (Don’t blame them; I scored 222 in my UME and picked their school as my second choice). And once, in Secondary school, Pastor Kenny (My PHE teacher) excluded me from the school’s basket ball team. (Don’t blame him, I was only 134 cm long and weighing 26 Kg). But trust me, it’s not nice to be excluded. And on the other hand, it’s sweet to be included!

So, I had this crazy thought…

  1. What if Universities will stop rejecting people on whatever basis?

  2. What if coaches will never reject potential players on any basis?

  3. And what if…what if God could never say no to ANYBODY when He comes again? What if ALL OF US COULD JUST…GO TO HEAVEN?

Then while the thought was still hanging around the room where these words were tied down in black and white,  a voice came…then a sight. The voice? “I’ve already made a provision for that!” It was God’s voice—I can tell. It sounded as soothing as the day He told me to “look at that lady, she’s your next friend” (And the friend became THE ONE). The sight? A cross on a pamphlet on the same table where I was writing, typing.

The cross. Can I count how many I’ve seen today? One a church’s sign post. Another printed on the pamphlet of a burial programme. A bus conductor had one dangling from a chain around his neck. And in my study, this early morning, the writer suggested buying glow-in-the-dark crucifixes to illustrate a point to kids.It’s the universal symbol of Christianity. Pentecostals and Catholics; Evangelicals and Charismatics…we all believe in…THE CROSS!

That got me thinking! Isn’t it odd? How come an instrument of death became a UNIVERSAL symbol of FAITH, HOPE and LOVE? Isn’t it unusual that a tool of torment would come to embody a movement of hope.I mean, who wears a tiny electric chair around his neck after seeing what Jack Bauer can do with it to a terrorist suspect? Or imagine the inappositeness of an AK-47 carved or painted on the wall of a church? (Maybe it won’t be too odd if Sadam Hussein was the clergy…lol). Or…buy glow-in-the-dark bombs to do illustration to kids? (That group must either be linked to Al-Qeida or the Boko Haram sect…or both!) Yet we do all these with the cross—hang it around necks, paint/carve it on walls, and buy them to illustrate. Hence, the question: WHY?

Max Lucado asks the same question: Why is the cross the symbol of our faith? And he answers:

To find the answer look no farther than the cross itself. Its design couldn’t be simpler. One beam horizontal—the other vertical. One reaches out—like God’s love. The other reaches up—as does God’s holiness. One represents the width of His love; the other reflects the height of His holiness. The cross is the intersection. The cross is where God forgave His children without lowering His standards.

Brilliant! Very brilliant! “How?you say. In Christ.God put on him the wrong who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG).

Just…just imagine it!God up there.You down here.And in-between? Christ on His cross!Your sins? His!God, who punishes sin, releases His rightful wrath on your mistakes. Jesus receives the blow. Since Christ is between you and God, you don’t. The sin is punished, but you are safe—safe in the shadow of the cross.His life? Yours! Forever!

That’s what God did, and that’s how God did it. But why?Why would He do it? It’s not some norm, neither is it some celestial duty that must be done.God didn’t have to do it. So why did He?

“For God so loved the world…”(John 3:16 NLT). He did it…FOR LOVE!

Aren’t you glad the verse does not read: “For God so loved the productive…”? Or, “For God so loved the popular…”? Or, “For God so loved the plump…”?  How many of us are productive…and popular…and plump? I can only think of Major General Obasanjo. (Did I hear you hiss?…lol). Thank God that’s not what the verse says. Nor does it state, “For God so loved the Blacks or Whites…” No, when we read John 3:16, we simply (and happily) read, “For God so loved the world.”

And for that Love’s sake, “…he gave his only Son” (John 3:16 NLT). Who does that? I wouldn’t. There are those for whom I would give my life. But ask me to make a list of those for whom I would kill my Jemima or Kezzy? The sheet will be blank. I don’t need a pen. The list has no names.

But God’s list contains the name of every person who ever lived. For this is the scope of His love. And this is the reason for the cross. He loves the world.  As boldly as the center beam proclaims God’s holiness, the crossbeam declares His love. And, oh, how wide His love reaches.Wide enough for the whole world. Are you included in the world? Then you are included in God’s love. God’s love is just for you.

That’s what Christ did!And still does! Christ includes you. When asked to describe the width of His love, He stretched one hand to the right and the other to the left and had them nailed in that position so you would know He died loving you.

But isn’t there a limit? Surely there has to be an end to this love. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But David the adulterer never found it. Paul the murderer never found it. Peter the liar never found it. And I, Joseph, the lust-addict haven’t found it either! When it came to life, we hit bottom. But when it came to God’s love, we never did. We found our names on God’s list of love.

Because God loves you, He has invited you to enjoy eternal life with Him in Heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NIV).

Jesus made a way to accept God’s invitation, and He did it just for you. Accept God’s invitation by believing that Jesus received the punishment for your sin by His death on the cross. Confess that you’ve sinned and ask His forgiveness. Invite Him into your life and ask for God’s help to turn from your sin. You can pray something like this:

Dear God, I admit that I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. Thank You for sending Jesus to suffer the punishment deserved for my sin. Please come into my life and help me live a life that pleases You. Amen.

And lastly, revisiting the issue of being excluded, sadly, some churches exclude you if you aren’t good enough. And I wonder…where is the body of Christ? Can you join me in praying for the realization of Jesus’s UNITY-Prayer in John 17?

I strongly believe that God has only one flock. Religious division is not His idea. Enfranchisements and denominationalism are not in God’s plan. God has one flock. The flock has one shepherd. And though we may think there are many, we are wrong. There is only one. And what’s more? Never in the Bible are we told to create unity. We are simply told to maintain the unity that exists. Paul exhorts us to preserve “the unity which the Spirit gives” (Ephesians 4:3, NEB). Our task is not to inventunity, we are to acknowledge it, and to keep it! No more. No less.

I have one sister and four brothers. We are siblings because we came from the same family. We have the same father. I’m sure there have been times when they didn’t want to call me their brother, but they don’t have that choice. Nor do we. When I see someone calling God “Father” and Jesus “Savior,” I meet a brother or a sister—regardless of the name of their church or denomination…

What would happen (I know this is another crazy thought), but what would happen if all the churches agreed, on a given day, to change their names to simply “church”? What if any reference to any denomination were removed and we were all just Christians? … And then we Christians wouldn’t be known for what divides us; instead we’d be known for what unites us—our common Father…and His cross!



He Chose the Nails: What God Did to Win Your Heart by Max Lucado. (2000) 

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