“Our time has come.” This was the rallying cry of Senator Barack Obama, during his American Presidential campaign
I decided to use that phrase whilst addressing a crowd of 2 million people, in Nigeria’s Lagos Stadium recently. This was at the annual Redeemed Church of God Conference. The ecstatic reaction of the largely black audience gave me a glimpse of what it must be like for Mr. Obama in such situations. I had met him previously, about three years ago, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. It was clear to me that this was a man on a mission.
This week, he became America’s first black President. Although he represents hope for people of all races and cultures around the world, his success has a particular resonance for black people. Until the election result was confirmed, there were many people who thought it impossible that a black person could become President. In the United Kingdom, there are many who believe it is even more difficult for a black person to become Prime Minister.
The new President has spoken of his religious background. This led me to explore what the Bible has to say about the black race. I found that there is more than I had realised.
The Queen of Sheba was of African descent. Sheba was a land in Africa near the Straits of Babel-Mandeb. The Queen was a wealthy, confident black woman who played a prominent role in international trade and commerce. So when she visited King Solomon, she was treated with the dignity and status of a Head of State: 1 Kings 10: 10-13.
The Song of Solomon is a collection of songs or poems where a man and woman express love for each other. But this was also the start of the “Black is Beautiful” campaign! The woman describes her appearance as follows: “I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon. Do not gaze at me because I am dark, because the Sun has gazed on me,” (Song of Solomon, l:5,6).
Simon, who helped Jesus bare the Cross, was from Cyrene – a major city in North Africa. Simon was selected to help bear the burden of the Cross on the way to Calvary. His has such a significant role, that he is mentioned in three Gospels: Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26.
In Acts 8:26-39, the black Ethiopian eunuch was sent to Philip by the Holy Spirit. This Ethiopian official was so important in God’s plan, that God wanted Philip to evangelise him. This African was “an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, Queen of the Ethiopians” (Acts 8:27).
The Ethiopian was a trusted member of his nation’s leadership hierarchy. He was highly learned – he could read the scriptures in Hebrew and Greek and converse with Phillip. But he was also a devout man who read God’s word. What a tremendous role model he is – not only for black men – but for men of all races!
These black biblical role models are not there just by chance. They demonstrate that in God’s vision, success is not limited by the colour of our skin. Yet the history of Man is blighted by the tragedy of much of the black experience.
Although in ancient times, black races were royalty, scientists, and inventors, we tend to overlook this. The black community has been associated more with slavery, social discontent and underachievement. As a black person myself, this perception has affected some members of my own family. In America and in the United Kingdom, there are more black men in prison than there are in college.
When I was in Nigeria just before Christmas. I was struck by the enormous potential of the country It is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and gas. With its natural resources, it should be a wealthy country. But, with its troubled history, many of the people are poor. Sadly, this scenario is to be found in many African countries. But this is not God’s desire for Africa and the black race.
When I spoke in Lagos, I felt anointed to give the people hope. I emphasised that through their Christian faith, they could once again restore Nigeria as the “Giant of Africa“.
Barack Obama has been very careful to portray himself as a leader for all America not just the black community. In Revelation 5, v9, the Bible speaks of Christ having “purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”. This shows that Christ came to save all races. The Bible is not a book for black or white. It is the word of God for all.