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Opinions of Thursday, 3 May 2018

Columnist: Dr. Daniel Gyebi

What do people say or write about you?

What do people say or write about you behind your back when they are sure that you will not hear or read about it?

If you have ever applied for admission to a school or employment in an organization, you may have been asked to provide a testimonial or letter of recommendation from a responsible person who is not your friend or family member.

Usually, friends and family members are excluded because it is believed that they would be less than candid in their assessments and may do or say anything to get you admitted or employed.

It would be interesting to know what was said about us in the testimonials or recommendations, especially in those instances where our applications were unsuccessful. It would be even more interesting if we had written our own testimonials or recommendations in order to compare.

In Luke Chapter 7:1-10, there is a beautiful story about Jesus healing the servant of a Roman military officer, a centurion who was in charge of one hundred soldiers in the ancient city of Capernaum in Israel. The centurion heard that Jesus was in town so he requested the Jewish leaders to go and plead with him to come and heal his sick servant whom he valued and loved.

As a disciplined military officer, he appreciated order and protocol. He thought it was improper for one to seek such a major favor from an important personality like Jesus without prior arrangements facilitated by other respected intermediaries. What he did not know was that Jesus was, and still is, different and that access to him is wide open to all who genuinely seek him.

From Biblical accounts, the Jewish leaders did not like Jesus, to put it mildly. They considered Jesus as a threat to their authority. Most of the time when they approached Jesus, it was to trick him, entrap him, or accuse him of something they thought he did or said wrongly. On that occasion, however, it was different. They truly needed Jesus to help heal the centurion’s servant, no tricks or traps. It was what they told Jesus about the centurion that is the subject or focus of this article.

The Jewish leaders knew that Jesus was a busy man so they needed to present a compelling case to convince him to stop whatever he was doing and follow them to the home of the centurion. They presented this great testimony about the centurion to Jesus: “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” (Luke 7:4-5). Note that the Jewish leaders seemed more impressed about the man’s good deeds than his position, and that may be the reason why they did not mention his position as a centurion in the quoted statement.

What a great testimonial or recommendation! A high-level military officer in an army-occupied territory who, instead of brutalizing, maltreating, and oppressing the people, was being praised for his love for Israel and her people? Those of us who have lived under a military regime before know about the harm that a few members of the armed forces, intoxicated by power, can do to their fellow citizens. The centurion was a Roman military officer, a foreigner sent to maintain law and order in the Jewish community that had been conquered and occupied by the Roman Empire, yet he treated the Jews with love, kindness, and respect. The Jewish leaders attested to the man’s love and good deeds.

Most of the time, what people say about us is based on what we have done or said; or what we should have done or said, but didn’t. What testimony will people give about you within your family, school, workplace, Church or community? Can it be said of you that you love your country and built a synagogue or Church for your community? Obviously, not many of us can afford to build a synagogue or Church for our community. However, all of us can love our country Ghana and pray for her unity and progress. All of us can show love, kindness, and respect for our fellow Ghanaians, regardless of their tribe or region.

We do not have to think big or far. We can start with the least among us. The centurion valued and loved his servant who lived with him. Many are those who maltreat their servants, maids, house helps, and even relatives sent from the village to live with them. Some people consider others over whom they have authority or power as less than human and so they abuse and do inhumane things to them.

The centurion loved his servant enough to want healing for him, and he put his reputation aside and begged the Jewish leaders to pave the way for him to meet Jesus.

Good deeds have their own rewards. As Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). The centurion was rewarded by the Jewish leaders agreeing to plead his case before Jesus; and by Jesus agreeing to go to his house. However, on their way to the centurion’s house, the centurion sent his friends to tell Jesus not to bother coming to the house because he believed that Jesus could stay wherever he was and heal the sick servant who was about to die. Jesus was amazed about the centurion’s faith, and yes, Jesus healed the servant without actually going to the house or seeing the servant.

Through the centurion and his servant whose names are not known to us, Jesus demonstrated his power to heal from a distance. What it means is that the presence and power of Jesus can be felt far and near. It was good deeds, power, and love at work.

It all happened because a Roman centurion loved the people of Israel and endeared himself to them. He was a perfect example of what the Bible says that a good name is better than riches (Proverbs 22:1). He may not have known what the Jewish leaders told Jesus about him, but his good deeds created a rare opportunity for the Jewish leaders and Jesus to come together for a common cause. Interestingly, the Jewish leaders gave the centurion a much stronger recommendation than he gave himself. We know that because when the centurion later sent his friends to stop Jesus from coming to his home, and requested that Jesus should heal the servant from a distance, he did so upon realizing that he was not worthy for Jesus to come to his home.

It is good to obtain a strong testimonial or recommendation from our families, friends, teachers, co-workers, supervisors, managers, community leaders, priests, and so on. A strong testimonial or recommendation may open closed doors. However, it is best if, as in the case of the centurion, the testimonial or recommendation is based on love for God and love for our fellow human being. In the end, only what we do for Christ will last; and only the testimonial or recommendation by Jesus would matter and open the gates of heaven to us.

Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.

Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana.

PrayerHouse Ministry is dedicated to providing a quiet facility for Christians to pray individually by themselves without any intermediary priest, pastor or any other person. This is a free service. No money is demanded or accepted. One facility is located at Kyerekrom / Fumesua, near Building and Road Research Institute Offices, one mile off the Kumasi-Accra Road and next to a house called Grace Castle. If you are interested, please contact Agnes at 027-7423815. Another is located at Kantinkyiren, at the junction of Kantinkyiren and Konkori, off the Kumasi-Bekwai Road, branching left at Trede junction. Contact Kwadwo at 020-8768461 / 0246-989413.

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