On Saturday, November 28, 2020, gunmen attacked rice farmers in Koshobe, Borno State, Nigeria. About 110 were killed in that attack, according to the Washington Post.
A day before the attack, a lone gunman had harassed the farmers demanding that they cooked for him. While some compiled, others, tired of the unending threats, tied him up and reported him to the military.
The terrorists claimed that the November 28 attack was revenge (a claim the military dismissed).
According to reports, they slit the farmers’ throats one by one.
A culture of death
Last week’s incident was a reminder of our culture of death and disregard for human life. Whether it is terrorists in the North, abortion of babies, rogue police officers, angry mobs, or insensitive and incompetent government, the disregard for human life is sickening.
We live in what can best be described as a culture of death. Sometimes it is blatant wickedness, and other times, it is sinful indifference and disregard. While the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and death is every man’s lot, the circumstances under which people die matters.
The Image of God
All these murders are evil because human life is valuable. A man is not an animal that can be slaughtered anyhow.
Naturalism tells us that there is nothing special about man- we are just like animals. In that worldview, there cannot be any justification behind treating human life as unique. Some naturalists have sought to equalize the life of animals and humans by exalting the animals to the status of humans.
However, doing the opposite would also be fine, according to the naturalistic worldview. Why not bring human life down to that of the animals?
There is no basis for saying that human life is valuable in a naturalistic world. If we are nothing more than advanced and intelligent monkeys, on what basis do we deserve to be treated better than monkeys? Based on intelligence? If intelligence confers value, then are more intelligible people more valuable and less intelligent ones disposable? (No wonder the whole Eugenics movement arose from Darwinism)
The bible tells us why human life is valuable- man was created in the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Created in God’s image, humans have a value that animals don’t have.
This image of God is the reason why the murder of another human is a grave sin. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6). God will demand an account from every man that kills another man (Genesis 9:5).
One of God’s moral laws given on Sinai prohibited murder (Exodus 20:13). All humans, born or unborn, rich or poor, intelligent or dumb, lower class or high class, bear this image. You don’t need to do or become anything to bear God’s image; it is what you are by being human.
Therefore, the right to life is not a right granted by the government or society; it is inherent in man. Every human has a right to life that should be acknowledged by others and protected by the government. He has this right just by merely existing (in or out of the womb).
Only the civil government has the power of the sword to bring punishment on evildoers (Romans 13:4). Only a legitimate civil government can execute the death penalty (Genesis 9:6) on crimes that are worthy of the death penalty (see Exodus 21, for example) or declare just wars against evil and unjust organizations and governments (Genesis 14, Deuteronomy 20). Apart from that, except in self-defense cases (Exodus 22, Nehemiah 4:16-18, Luke 22:36), no one has a right to shed the blood of another.
Our culture of death and disregard for people’s lives will persist apart from a recognition that the value of human life is founded in God’s image. As believers, we must condemn the culture of death everywhere it rears its ugly head- terrorists, evil cops, jungle justice, governmental indifference or incompetence, abortion, poverty, etc.
We cannot embrace a naturalistic worldview- and claim that humans are animals- and expect people not to treat them as such. Ideas do have consequences.
We must reclaim the truth that God is the creator of this universe and that he created man in his image as the climax of that creation. Every man you meet is an image-bearer. He is not ordinary; he bears God’s image; he is not ordinary; he has a soul that will live forever.
Shedding innocent blood
God said the blood of murdered Abel was crying out to him from the ground (Genesis 4:10). Jesus said that upon the Pharisees would come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from Abel to Zechariah (Mathew 22:35). God promised to make Edom a desert “because of the violence done to the people of Judah in whose land they shed innocent blood” (Joel 3:19, see also Ezekiel 35:1-6).
God hid his face from his people because their hands were filled with blood (Isaiah 1:15). “The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, will you judge her? Will you judge this city of bloodshed? Then confront her with all her detestable practices and say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You city that brings on herself doom by shedding blood in her midst and defiles herself by making idols, you have become guilty because of the blood you have shed and have become defiled by the idols you have made. You have brought your days to a close, and the end of your years has come. Therefore I will make you an object of scorn to the nations and a laughingstock to all the countries. Those who are near and those who are far away will mock you, you infamous city, full of turmoil.” (Ezekiel 22:1-5)
David killed an innocent man with the sword, and the sword did not depart from his house (2 Samuel 12:10). God turns fruitful lands into salt wastes because of the wickedness of those who live there (Psalms 107:34).
The shedding of innocent blood is a grave sin that God, in judgment, will not overlook. We cannot continue to flood our nation with blood and expect that God will not stand up for the cause of the innocent. We cannot sow innocent blood and expect to reap human flourishing.
We need to repent as a nation. Nigeria is filled with too much innocent blood. We cannot act as if we are not accountable to God for all this blood. Ours is a moral universe created and sovereignly administered by a holy God.
As individuals, we need to repent of all the ways we have been complicit in this culture of death. As a nation, we need to realize that we are not just politically guilty (we have not been strategic enough or wise enough); we are also morally guilty.
Like Nineveh of old (Jonah 3), we must repent of our culture of death and seek God’s mercies. He must forgive us and heal our land. Similarly, we must have a renewed sense of the preciousness of human life and live as individuals and governments with a commitment to protecting human lives.
Repentance means a change in direction. We must not only be sorry for our sins, but we must also be ready to forsake those sins- stop the jungle justice, fight against terrorism with integrity and truth, end the police brutality, forego the killing of innocent citizens for political ambitions.
If the story of Nineveh tells us anything, it is that God is merciful. He is quick to forgive. God does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). If Nigerians and Nigeria will repent of our culture of death, he will forgive us and lead us on the path to human flourishing. “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34).
But if we repent, we must do so with the understanding that God only grants forgiveness in Jesus’s name (Acts 2:38). There is only one name through which we can be saved, the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). If we come to God, we must come in the name of Jesus (John 14:6). At his feet, we must confess our guilt, repent of them, seek forgiveness, and submit our nation to his Lordship (Mathew 28:18, Colossians 1:15-20, Psalms 2, 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26). We must “kiss the Son” and experience the blessedness of all who take refuge in him (Psalms 2:12).
The way back is the way of the cross.