First, I want to recommend a sermon series from 2019, called “Love Lagos” and a particular message in the series called “Why You Should Remain in Lagos”. In that sermon, we looked at Abraham, “he was looking forward to a country, whose builder and maker was the Lord”, and we were tackling the tension of “how we should work and pray today for a better Nigeria?”
Now, I do believe we should work and pray for a better Nigeria, and yet what God has promised is not a new Nigeria, he has promised a new Jerusalem, and because we are people who are looking forward to a new Jerusalem, we can work for a renewed Lagos but we never presume that working for a renewed Lagos will bring about the kingdom of God, that’s not going to happen.
And when we know this, we are not utterly despondent when certain things we work and pray for do not come to pass. When the End SARS Movement started in 2020, one of my major critiques and fears was how many younger Christians were engaging in it with a certain sense of messianic zeal, as if, “our time has come”. I was often saying that this is not rooted in scripture and is a bubble that will burst, and my fear was that when it bursts, they would be in despair because what they had invested all their hopes in would eventually crumble, and the next thing we hear is “Forget Naija (Nigeria)… Things will never change”
But as Christians, we should never say “forget Nigeria” because the Bible says “Pray for the city and the place I have sent you for if it prospers, you will prosper” Jeremiah 29:7. This was at the time the Israelites were going into Babylon, it wasn’t even their own home yet the Bible says seek the prosperity of that city. Likewise, our identity is not in our current nation because it is not our home. This ‘city’, in this case, Nigeria, that we are called to is not our main city, so Paul says that our citizenship is from heaven where we look forward to a Savior to come (Philippians 3:20). This means we are dual citizens.
“We are dual citizens, living in our current cities yet anticipating God’s kingdom that’s to come”
If you would want to get into the intricacies of Christianity and politics, there is a four-part series in 2019, called “God and Country”, preached in anticipation of the election and there is a particular message there called “Dual Citizens”. This series will help you think about how we live as responsible citizens today.
As dual citizens, we are citizens of a kingdom we know that can never be shaken and will last forever and yet we are citizens of a kingdom that is also passing away. The proof that we are part of God’s kingdom is that we are hopeful, we don’t say “See, we can’t wait for the new kingdom and so this place we are in right now is going to burn”. We are not escapists or those who ‘japa’. In fact, because we are looking forward to that new kingdom, we work for this one to be better in a way that we are not expecting it to be utopian. And this gives us the fuel to continue working and praying even when things don’t turn out the way we had wanted and stops us from hoping as if this is our final dwelling place.
Answered by Femi Osunnuyi is lead pastor of City Church, a gospel-centred urban church in the city of Lagos. Because of his passion for church planting and leadership development he also serves on the Lead Team of Acts29 and the Advisory Team of City to City Africa. He is happily married to Tosin and is father to Tofunmi and Timilehin.