Since what has now been known as the Lekki massacre happened on the 20th of October, 2020, we have been reading about looting, arson, attacks, and other kinds of destruction not only on government properties but also on properties of fellow citizens.
Not that the destruction of any government property is right on any level, but you’ll think that the anger should be directed at the government and these perpetrators would know not to cause their neighbor and fellow citizen pain. I mean didn’t we all just come together to protest against the government? So how is it that after 2 weeks of being on the same side, Nigerians are looting other Nigerians’ shops and destroying their cars, houses, and even setting the buildings on fire?
I thought it was just the government that was corrupt and oppressive? And that our real problem is the government?
Now before you say that Nigeria is not an ideal environment, that Nigeria is corrupt and we are born into a corrupt society and that is to blame-the negative influence of the Nigerian society- I have a question; how did Nigeria get corrupt in the first place? If we are all innocent and without a trace of personal corruption, shouldn’t we at least expect to find a part of our society that is no more than at most half corrupt? Why is this corruption spread across all 300 plus tribes? How come there is no part of this country, no tribe that is not corrupt? Maybe because society can’t be a corrupting influence until it first becomes corrupt itself (by the people who are claiming it’s the society that is corrupting them).
Now I am not saying that you are as corrupt as the arsonists, looters, destroyers, and attackers. But you are corrupt nonetheless. Now bear with me, let me explain myself, do not close the page just yet.
Let me note quickly, and you may have already observed, that one of the reasons I am writing this article is to tell everyone of us that we are radically (relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough) corrupt, not utterly (completely and without qualification; absolutely), but radically. I am also writing with the hope that this can cause us to panic and maybe by it, we can begin to ask the right question- how can I get rid of my own corruption?
How did I become corrupt?
By being born!
Why do I say so? First, because experience verifies that sin and corruption are universal. There is no one who is exempted. And birth is one thing that cuts across everyone.
The Bible supports this and teaches this truth explaining that this universal presence of sin and corruption in the human heart can be traced to birth. See the verse below.
Ps 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Job 15:14 “What is man, that he should be pure, Or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
Every one of us, sadly, is born with a sinful and corrupt nature. If 200 million (est. population of Nigeria) of us were born with no inclination to sin and corruption to our nature, you would reasonably expect that at least some of us would refrain from falling. Like R.C Sproul said- “If our natural moral state is one of innocent neutrality, we would statistically expect that half of the human race would remain perfect”.1
And if that’s possible, being born innocent with no corruption or sin, then how do we explain the sad reality of infants dying? After all, we know and the Bible confirms that death is not natural to man, it came into the world as a result of sin (Rom 5:12). People only die as a result of sin, babies inclusive. Now let me just add quickly, that when Adam deliberately and willfully disobeyed God, he incurred guilt, corrupted himself, and became subject to death. But his disobedience and the result was not confined to him alone. God justly imputed Adam’s sin to the entire human race, which was in Adam. Through the disobedience of Adam, the entire human race is justly considered guilty and condemned before God. This is why all of us are conceived in sin, born in iniquity, and are naturally corrupt. (Ps 51:5). Again read Rom 5:12- Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men (you and I) , because all sinned (emphasis added).
However, an interesting thing about Romans 5:12 is the b part of the verse: and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (emphasis added). So we are not only corrupt because we were born, but because we also sinned- we failed to meet the demands and requirements of God’s inflexible law. Whether by deliberate actions or unconscious infractions, Gen 2:17 is true for us all, even in 2020. The wages of sin is still death (Rom 6:23). And Westminster Shorter Catechism in question 19 captures the consequence of our sin when it says- “All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell forever.”
There’s a principle I want us to learn and always remember, “behavior doesn’t determine nature, nature determines behavior”. If you’re born in sin and by nature corrupt, you will be corrupt in your behavior, no exemption.
What is the result of this corruption?
So we’ve established that we are sinners and corrupt people from the start of life (in the womb, yes, that’s where life starts).
The Bible also teaches that this corruption and sin renders us spiritually dead- insensitive and unresponsive to the things of God (1 Cor 2:14). Michael Barrett puts it well when he says, “Spiritual death is when the most important part of a human being’s person, his or her eternal soul, is dead to the most important vital part of life, God.”2
What he means is this, our sin and corruption infest our innermost being and even though we are not as evil as possible, we are evil and corrupt in all of our being. There’s no part of us that isn’t affected by sin and corruption. And this has left us void of any good that can please God. We are without any spark that could possibly flame into spiritual life. This is what Paul meant in Eph 2:1- And you were dead in your trespasses and sins (emphasis added). From birth we are incapable of doing any good (Rom 3:12), we have a dark understanding (Eph 4:18), and are darkness ourselves (Eph 5:8).
Ephesians 2:1-3 is one of the passages that describe the depth we plunged ourselves into- And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
If you follow it line by line you’ll see that first, we follow the world, next we follow the devil, and lastly, we follow the lusts of the flesh. And this leads to all kinds of evil and sin you see us exhibiting (don’t forget, nature determines behavior). From outward acts of sin to inward thoughts, to sins against fellow humans. Though some are more heinous than others, all are still against God (Ps 51:4). Once you are corrupt from the root, the heart, then all other kinds of defilement are inevitable (Luke 6:45).
We don’t do everything we are capable of doing in the sphere of sin, but as you’ve noticed in recent times from events in Nigeria, we are capable of doing the worst.
Another passage I think explains this well to us is Romans 3:10-18″THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”; “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
I like what Michael Barrett 2 says about these verses- since there is none righteous (v10), it follows that “there is none that does good, no, not one” (v12). Then 13-14 shows how the mouth mirrors the heart. From the abundance of spiritual death, the heart emanates untruthfulness, slander, and profanity. Verse 15-17 describes a lifestyle characterized by violence, ruin, distress, affliction, and wretchedness. Can you begin to picture what’s wrong with us and our country now? Can you see what has happened in the past few weeks? Sin defiles everything.
How can I get rid of my own corruption?
Is it clear now that by nature we are sinful, corrupt, and dead to God? And that for this there will be tribulation and distress (Rom 2:9), a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES (Hebrews 10:27). Eternal death is the certain end of spiritual death-for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).
But what can you do? Because even the knowledge of your own corruption is not enough to bring you out of it. Job describes the impossible place we find ourselves when he said “Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one! (Job 14:4). So we can’t whip up anything in us, that’ll ever be good enough to please God. No one can produce something pure from our impure nature. We need help.
The help we need is provided in the Gospel. The Gospel is the solution to human corruption and sinfulness. See, the wages of sin is not just physical death, but an eternity of death and unrelenting suffering. But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). If you do not receive Jesus and His atoning death, you will have to pay your own debt to law and justice- God can not let bygones be bygones. God’s grace has provided His only begotten Son to be your savior from sin and corruption. You have to recognize that God provided Jesus as a substitute for you– to suffer and die in your place. You have to believe this profound and simple truth that Jesus died for you. Without it, you can’t escape your sin and corruption. There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Yes, our misery is great. It is so that we can appreciate the wondrous grace of God that is greater than our sin and corruption. Can you appreciate it? Can you see God’s rich mercy and His great love in Christ who died, was buried, rose, and ascended to heaven for you?
Let me close with this- our corrupt nature, our sin, and our spiritual death that we inherited at birth is the reason why we are so corrupt and this corruption has extended to our society. However, spiritual life is the only answer to spiritual death and corruption. God, by His grace offers undeserving corrupt sinners like you and I spiritual life in His son, the Christ and Lord. Will you accept this offer? Will you extend this offer to your friends, family, and neighbor?
- Chosen By God| Sproul 1
- Complete In Him | Barrett 2