I HAD wanted to do a follow-up to my topical commentary pertaining armed robbers, rapists and native doctors, who masquerade as pastors in Nigerian churches, especially in the Pentecostal circle, but a news report in Vanguard online edition, May 7, captioned, “PFN, Anambra community bicker over killing of snake” changed my to-do list. Consequently, my follow-up, “How to know false pastors” will come another day.
The report went thus: “Members of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, and Umuoji community in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State are on each other’s throat, following the killing of a snake in the community by the Overseer of the Mercy Throne Assembly, Umuoji, Rev Jude Chibueze (God is King).
To the community, Rev Chibueze had committed a sacrilege, adding that the killing of snake in the area is a taboo. The matter is already before the Anam-bra State Police command which is trying to mediate between the two parties to avoid a breakdown of law and order.”
Undeniably, I was taken aback that in this modern age, 6,000 years after man, enslaved by Satan and more than 2,000 years after the Creator of man, came in the flesh, to show him the approved highway to The New Jerusalem, the earthman would still be groping in the dark (John 1:10, Rev 21).
According to the report, “Already, the church where the overseer is the pastor had been sealed with palm fronds by the community people.” Narrating the incident, Rev Chibueze said he heard his children shouting in the night and raced to their room. His words: “When I got to their room, I saw a big snake lying with them and I had to kill it and threw it into the nearby bush, the following day, some community members marched to my house and accused me of killing their god. They beat me up mercilessly.”
Rev Chibueze is not the first pastor facing such a situation. March 17, last year, a group of villagers in Akaeze, a community in Ivo Local Government area of Ebonyi State, expelled the priest in-charge of the Anglican Pentecostal Church in the village, Rev. Daniel Okoli and his family for allegedly killing a hallowed snake. They also destroyed the church building and personal belongings of the priest and his warden. Police investigated both cases.
Incontrovertibly, these are trying times for Messengers of God, who must contend for their faith as well as with the people, who they have to lead to repentance and acceptance of their belief. Moreover, the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation says, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.
Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation 10 days” (Rev 2:10) and “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked; but now commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
If this is temptation and tribulation at the same time, Rev Chibuze must be praying now that God should not allow the temptation that will be above him to come his way and the tribulation should not pass 10 days. However, the question is; Should wisdom not have taught a man of God how to handle testy cases that involve given Caesar what is Caesar’s? (Matthew 22:21).
Frankly speaking, some communities in Igbo land and other parts of the world worship snakes and other animals as gods. I recollect my childhood experience in Nnewi, Anambra State, serpents used to creep into the apartment rented by my late father, but he told me the blood-curdling “visitor” meant no harm. Did I believe him? As a child then, Yes. Now that I am grown up, I do not think I will accept such teaching.
Commonsense vs. religious conviction
Nevertheless, from Rev Chibueze’s account, the snake slept with his children without harming them. So, should he or should he not have killed the snake? Before you say crucify him, note that a sense of fear and danger is what beclouds any man when he sees a snake and he must have remembered the scripture, which says, “Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
Human beings think and react differently, that is freewill that God gave us to make choices. The devil came the way of Rev Chibueze in the form of Umuoji snake-god. Somebody suggested that if he were a prayerful and strong man of God, a snake-god would not have entered his house to inveigle him because his domicile should have been walled by invisible spiritual fire. (Zech 2:5). They fail to remember that Satan tempted Jesus (God Himself) even after his 40-day and 40-night prayers (Matthew 4:1-11).
Another maintained: “As a pastor in the community, I believe he already knows that the people worship snake and snake comes into their houses. He must also have seen plenty snakes around the community. What he should have done is to pray for God to smite the snake, instead of him (pastor) killing it or report to the traditional ruler of the town.”
The third person, referencing 2 Tim 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” said the pastor acted erroneously. His case: “By virtue of his revelation in this verse, as a child of God, I can never be afraid of snakes because I know God will protect me from injury. So, what I will do is to command Holy Ghost fire to burn the snake in the name of Jesus.”
Really, the decision is personal, according to one’s faith and power working in him. However, Apostle Paul faced a rather similar situation after surviving a shipwreck on Malta Island. It is written, “Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper (snake), driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand” (Acts 28:3). The natives were the ones who kindled a fire for him and others because of the rain and cold that night.
Now, nobody knows what shipwreck Rev Chibueze escaped from in those hours of darkness, only to find an unasked lodger, a snake-god for that matter, inside his dwelling, which was under lock and key as at when he went to bed. Did the creature take wing into his room?
Apostle Paul’s experience
Like the Umuoji natives, “When natives (people of Malta) saw the creature (snake) hanging from his (Paul’s) hand, they said to one another, ‘No doubt, this man is murderer, whom, though, he has escaped the sea, yet justice does not allow to live” (Acts 28:4). What ensued: “But he (Paul) shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm” (Acts 28:5). Unmistakably, this was not what the people thought would happen. “However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god (Acts 28:6).
Umuoji people, who accused Rev Chibueze of murder of a snake, would have expected him to fall and die. When that did not happen, they refuse to borrow from the example of their Malta counterparts, who waited for a long time. After reviewing Chibue-ze’s case in a time-honored court, the chief priest and his co-judges, found him guilty as charged and prescribed items he should purchase to placate their god. In Rev Chibueze’s words; “They wrote a list of items amounting to N54,890, which they said I should buy to appease their god. Being a Christian, I told them that it is against my faith and more over, I killed a snake and not a human being.”
A community leader, Chief Paul Edekobi, disagreed, saying, the pastor had agreed with them that he would appease their gods, but instead of doing what he earlier agreed to do with the community, he reneged. The pastor dragged them to Ogidi Police Station where six of the community leaders were seized. Deadlock–you might fittingly conclude at this point.
Elijah made a conspicuous disparity with the prophets of Baal in their white linen robes and high-pointed bonnets. King Ahab branded him, ‘Troubler of Israel” and he responded, “I have not made trouble with Israel, but you and your family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals” (I King 18:18).
While King Ahab, symbolizing the Umuojis was considering the best way to deal with Elijah, the Oracle with an aversion to procrastination declared, “Now summon the people all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table” (I Kings 18:19).
Do not forget that the issue at stake is that King Ahab and the notorious Queen Jezebel introduced idolatry into the Jewish religion and it stank to high heavens, provoking Elijah to pray that God should shut up the dew and rain from Israel. God answered him and for many years, there was drought.
Ahab accepted the challenge the battle between God and Baal which is exactly what Umuoji people did by assembling their chief priests, who are waiting for the items. In a clash like the one at hand, no mortal can fight for God, the true God fights for Himself. If the chief priests think otherwise, particularly as police is not equipped to handle spiritual matters, it will not be an unspeakable proposal to go to Mount Umuoji to make certain the God that will answer by fire.