by Emeka Asinugo
Our dear Anita: I am addressing this letter to you because I know it’s you who hold the key to triumph over the challenges that have recently raised their ugly heads in your family and in your ministry. I am convinced that even if you don’t read this letter directly from me, some of the numerous members of Christ Embassy across the globe could read it and draw your attention to the words of an old man who is pretty much in the same calling as you and your husband are. I am writing this from my home: The Vicarage, St. Matthew’s Church of England, Stratford, E15 4JX, where my wife, Christy is the Vicar, and the co-ordinating Chaplain of Westfield, Stratford City.
We were all taken aback when we read about your intention to file for a divorce against your husband, Pastor Chris. It was a scandal, Anita, and you must not let it happen.
I need not tell you that in today’s world, many factors tend to get in the way of successful marriages. It is, therefore, practically impossible to recommend a general panacea for all the troubles that can hamper the success of any marriage. But in all our travails, as Christians, we must bear in mind the fact that in a very profound sense, marriage is the most intimate of human relationships, involving sharing a person’s entire life with his or her spouse.
By its very nature which emphasizes conjugal love, the institution of marriage is ordained for procreation and for the ultimate education of children who come from such marriages. It calls for self-surrender to the other spouse, a surrender that is so intimate and complete that spouses become “one,” not only in body, but also in soul, without necessarily losing their individual identities…
As the servants of God, you must ask yourselves where the ultimate education of your children comes into this divorce prompting. If this divorce actually takes place, how would your daughters who you are preparing to become future leaders in the church and mothers in the family feel, knowing they come from a broken home? And how do your numerous followers interpret your individual identity with reference to your commitment to family and church?
There is an African adage that says: there is no age when a man can say: ‘I have known it all’. That adage also applies to the institution of marriage. No one can claim to know all there is in that human relationship called marriage. It is a university. Those in it learn by the day from it. And most times, the lessons come in different shapes, culminating in various experiences. As a result, the marital experiences of people actually differ one from another, depending on circumstances and such factors as upbringing, environmental pressure and work demands. In all of these, no one can claim to have a ready answer to all the myriads of problems that couples face daily in their marriage relationships. It is even more complicated these days when people marry for various reasons that can range from legal, social, emotional and economic needs to spiritual stability or upliftment. But no matter the reason a couple gets married in the first place, the demands of marriage remain ultimate and constant. Husband and wife must have a unity of purpose in all their undertakings. In short, they must be seen as, and remain, “an item” in the eyes of their society.
Many of your admirers across the globe want to believe that work pressure, which is pressure from those you work with or think you are working with, is responsible for this undesirable development of you, Anita, filing for a divorce against Chris. The truth they want to believe is that not only has Satan attended service at Christ Embassy, just as he attends services in all churches that are reputed to be doing well, he is waiting to receive Holy Communion! He has penetrated your ministry and is using your work force to direct you. That is the challenge.
Don’t forget that God allowed Satan to sift the quality of those who profess to worship Him. God cannot be mocked. If Satan wins this battle, then God was never in your Ministry in the first place. Your millions of admirers across the globe will be greatly disappointed but they will not make any mistake about the truth.
You sure must know that your admirers, even from other Christian denominations are in their millions. Many of them look up to you as their role model. Think again. Must you let them down? Is this idea of divorcing Chris so binding? Think about it again. Is this not selfishness? Here in England, many homes break up, with their families torn apart. But when you look at the situation closely, you find that selfishness on the part of one of the spouses was the fundamental reason the family broke up. Should that be the testimony of your Ministry? Would you allow material things like money or alleged sexual indulgence destroy your Ministry and make a mockery of all you have invested into it? To remain married, spouses must be ready for a long-term commitment in every conceivable respect, financially, emotionally and in terms of maturity and ageing.
Having said this much, I would like to quickly point out that there are many things about marriages, especially among Christian Families that are often taken for granted. One of them is the sacrosanct promise publicly recited by couples in front of their witnesses, and in front of God. They usually vow to love, cherish and respect each other “until death do us part!” Think about the admonition God gave Adam in the Holy Book. Adam and his wife Eve were the first recorded couple on earth, according to our Christian belief. God created the Garden of Eden for them, with all the glamour and beauty that the scenic environment portrayed, just as He has prospered Christ Embassy. The Holy Book mentions that husband and wife explored the Garden naked. They were not ashamed of their nakedness. They must have been as innocent as a newly born child. That was how God wanted them to be – innocent. God specifically told Adam not to eat of the forbidden fruit in the centre of the Garden of Eden. God told him: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat; for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”
The serpent, described in the Holy Book as “more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord had made” prevailed on Eve and she convinced her husband to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit. But Adam lived for many more years before his physical demise. It means that God was not talking about the physical death of Adam. God meant that Adam would die spiritually. Adam’s spiritual death was not interpreted at the time God told him he would die if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. No one knew the mind of God when He spoke to Adam about the tree. But God’s decree happened. The spiritual death of Adam and his wife ushered sin and death into the world. For disobeying God, Adam died spiritually and his death distanced him and his wife from God.
By the same token, modern marriages can die spiritually. When husband and wife fail to upkeep their vow to cherish, love and respect each other; when selfishness and the desire to be the one left standing at the end of the day is inadvertently at the centre of their relationship; when the ill-conceived advice of “frienemies” (half friends and half enemies) holds sway in their marriage, that union is doomed to spiritual death. The couple will be separated from each other, just as Adam was separated from God. The couple may still be living together as Adam and Eve continued to live in the Garden of Eden. But in the spirit, they have been disconnected from God who brought them together initially.
Yes. Even the Elders and Pastors of Christ Embassy are not free from all this. They too have a case to answer. No Christian marriage can simply crash without series of warnings. And we make haste to ask: where were the Elders and other Pastors of Christ Embassy when this entire trouble started? Where were they when it continued and when it was allowed to escalate to this world-wide level? Where were they? What did they observe? What was revealed to them, even in their prayers? And what did they do to salvage the ugly incident that was coming on to daint the image of Christ Embassy?
Anita and Chris, you must surely know that the devil is at work in your Ministry. You must not let this happen. Millions of your admirers out there will be very disappointed. Don’t listen to those frienemies of yours who are pretending to advise you genuinely, because they are not. You are beautiful, Anita. Chris is handsome. And I am sure this combination of beauty and brain is what has attracted so many people to you and to your ministry. Call Chris to prayer over this challenge, and withdraw the suit from court. That is what all your admirers feel you should do. Don’t allow money or things of the flesh to come between you and the love of God expressed in you as a great woman of God.
Pastor Benny Hinn had this temptation. The devil set a booby trap for him. His family was tearing apart. But he overcame the gripping power of the Evil One. He triumphed. And today that testimony stands strong in his favour and profile. The world is watching, hoping that you prove who you really have been. Your children are waiting, not to be stigmatised with the label of children who came from a broken home. Christians all over the world are praying that as a great woman of God, God Himself will reveal the future of this divorce road you appear to have followed to you, Anita. And we all believe that you will triumph over this period and live to give testimony of God’s goodness in your life. Paul is advising you in Ephesians 6:10 to be “strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full amour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggles are not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground.”
Paul himself summarises this challenge that seems to be rocking your family and ministry in 2 Corinthians 6: 3-10: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that your ministry will not be discredited. Rather as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonour, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing everything.”
* Mr Asinugo is a London-based journalist and columnist.