Love Each Other

Today is the Thursday of the Holy Week, called Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. The maundy means “command”, from the Latin word, “mandatum“. This was Jesus’ last Thursday before He died. On this day, He had dinner with His disciples – the Last Supper, and washed their feet. After washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus said, “Since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you“. (See John 13:14-15). He also taught His disciples about leadership when He realized they were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest.

COMMANDMENT

The commandment that Jesus gave His disciples, that has given this day its name, can be found in John 13:34-35, which states as follows, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we ought to examine our lives on a day such as this against this commandment. Are we loving each other in the same way that Jesus loved His disciples? Again, Jesus shows through this commandment that the best way to teach people and lead, is by example. Jesus always led by example. “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” He did not say just as you have seen the religious leaders love others or just as has been written, you should love each other. But rather, do what you have seen me do to you. He then told His disciples that by obeying this commandment they will prove to the world that they are indeed the disciples of Jesus Christ. The evidence of our Christian faith is the love we show each other. Our love must be shown in words and deeds. The world will then see us and know that we are indeed disciples of Jesus Christ.

BETRAYAL

Another thing that jumped at me from reading the passages on Maundy Thursday is the theme of betrayal that runs through all the accounts. Jesus was betrayed by His own disciples and His best friends. Think about it; even Jesus who was God, who had done so many marvelous things in the presence of His own disciples, was betrayed by them. How much more you and I who are only human?

Right at the dinner table, Jesus gave a hint of His betrayal when He mentioned that one of His disciples who was eating with Him was going to betray Him. This hint is captured in Mark 14:18-21 as follows, “As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, ” I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray Me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?” He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. it would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” We all know that Jesus was talking about Judas because eventually he betrayed Jesus. Jesus could have disclosed his name but chose not to so that the will of God shall be done.

The second hint of betrayal came when Jesus and the disciples were walking to Gethsemane. Mark 14:27,29-31 sets it out elaborately as follows: “On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, “God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Peter said to him, “Even if anyone else deserts you, I never will.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter – this very night, before the rooster crows twice you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter declared emphatically. Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed same.” Can you picture your master telling you this? Of course we will respond the same way that Peter and the other disciples responded.

Even though He knew that these were just mere words, Jesus still went with His disciples to Gethsemane to pray. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me“. (See Mark 14:34.) They stayed alright, but they did not keep watch. Instead, they slept. These were Jesus’ best friends and close circle – Peter, James and John. They could not help Jesus in prayer when he needed them the most. Mark 14:41 states that, “When he returned to them the third time, he said “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest.” This reminds me of when you are going through a lot and those closest to you say, “we will pray for you” but instead, all they do is sleep. We cannot always rely on friends and family when we are in dire need of prayers. We should learn to trust completely in God.

Judas finally arrived and kissed Jesus signaling to the armed men who Jesus was. Mark 14:44-46 states, “The traitor, Judas had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus, “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.” The kiss of betrayal. In this world, not all fans or appellations are genuine. Judas walked up to Jesus and exclaimed “Rabbi!” which is what the disciples called Jesus, and kissed him. But that was the sign of betrayal. Of course, Jesus knew what the kiss meant because He is God. Many of us enjoy appellations and name calling but the very people celebrating you in your face are stabbing you in the back. We must be careful and know what premium we put on such fans and appellations. The Scriptures go on to say that when Jesus was arrested his disciples deserted Him and ran away. (See Mark 14:50.) This still happens today. When we find ourselves in a difficult situation those we think will be there to fight with us and for us will desert us and ran away.

Jesus’ right hand man, Peter, denied Him as Jesus had prophesied. That part of the story is captured in Mark 14:66-72. But what is interesting was how Peter denied Jesus on the third occasion. In Mark 14:71, the Bible states, “Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying – I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Peter had just had dinner with Jesus and now he says he does not even know the man they are talking about. Incredible. I mean Jesus washed Peter’s feet a few hours before this denial, and yet still Peter denied ever knowing Jesus. Can you imagine being denied in this manner? When the cock crowed, Peter remember Jesus’ prophecy and he wept bitterly. Poor Peter, right? Betraying your own best friend like this.

The lesson here is that we are capable of betraying each other but we should be quick to realize our fault and not lose our faith. Furthermore, as humans we should expect people to betray us, or better still, we should not be surprised when they do. Only God will not betray us. Instead, we should show the same love to those who betray us just as Jesus showed love to Peter. Before Jesus told Peter that Peter would betray Him, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” – Luke 22:31. We should, therefore, pray for those who betray us so that they will repent. We should be like Jesus end not hold it against them. We should also have absolute trust and faith in God because He will never betray us.

#Lent2021

#MaundyThursday

#HolyWeek

TRIBUTE BY KOW ABAKA ESSUMAN TO KOJO BENTSI-ENCHILL, A FRIEND AND MENTOR

Now praise we great and famous men,

The fathers named in story;

And praise the Lord, who now as then,

Reveals in man His glory.

It all started with Maxwell Logan. I had come home for holidays from Cornell University in Janaury 2009 and met with Maxwell Logan in his office to talk about career opportunities in the legal industry in Ghana. After a bit of conversation, he said to me, “I think you should contact Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa and Ankomah (BELA); it is the best firm in Ghana and will suit a person with your background”. He gave me the contact number for BELA. The next day, I called the office and asked to speak to Kojo. The receptionist, who answered the phone, patched me through to him. I told him how I had obtained his contact details and that I wanted to come and talk to him about legal career opportunities in Ghana. He asked me to drop by his office any time during the day. I asked him where his office was and he said, “Teachers Hall Complex in Adabraka”. I asked where that was and he said, “If you were able to find your way to Cornell then Teachers Hall Complex in Adabraka should not be a problem for you at all.” I laughed and said, “see you in the afternoon.” Much later in our relationship, when I reminded him about this conversation, he would deny ever saying such a thing. That afternoon, after sitting in a civil procedure class taught by Ace Ankomah, I walked from the Law School at Makola to Teachers Hall Complex in Adabraka. Everyone I met along the way kept saying, “it’s just up the road.” When I arrived at the office, Kojo came to see me in the reception and ushered me into his office warmly. We chatted about school and other things. He asked me about a friend of his who was a professor at Cornell. I asked him about moving back to Ghana and he told me bluntly that there was no rush. He advised me to learn all that I could learn and gain all the experience I could gain, and when I was ready, I could return to Ghana. He said these words that have stayed with me for many years, “there is always room at the top.” Indeed, it is captured on my Facebook profile as one of my favourite quotes. When the time came for me to join the President in January 2017, I reminded Kojo of the quote in my resignation letter dated 16 January 2017. I stated, “I have built friendships that will last a lifetime and most significantly, I have learnt very important principles of life. I will always be a representative of the Firm wherever I find myself and I am confident that the training that I have received over the last few years will play a weighty role in my new employment. I will continue to pray for the Firm to exceed its own expectations and maintain its position as one of the best law firms (if not the best) in the country. And I will carry with me, a dictum by Mr. Bentsi-Enchill to me in 2009 when I first met him, “there is always room at the top.”

When I eventually moved to Ghana and after completing the Post-Call law course at the Ghana Law School, I joined BELA. As part of the recruitment process, I was required to send two writing samples and meet with all the partners. My meeting with Kojo was more like a conversation. We chatted about everything. A part of the conversation I remember so well was when he asked me what the most interesting topic in Ghana at the time was. I told him the sim card registration and he asked what I thought of it. I was said it was a clear invasion of privacy especially for prepaid customers. Little did I know he was spoiling for a debate. We argued back and forth about the pros and cons of this topic. After a while, he looked at me and said, “you [pause] you’re very surreptitious.” I responded “oh” and we both laughed as he walked me downstairs to hand me over to Ace.

Although I was not in his team, I worked on a few matters with him personally. Kojo always had these intellectual projects. He was excited to learn new things and he did not mind if the teacher was a newly qualified lawyer or an experienced chartered accountant. On one of the matters we worked on jointly, he sought my view on an issue involving boardroom politics and how the law could be used to resolve such an issue. I proffered my opinion on the matter and he said he thought it was a brilliant and would propose it to the client. 

In the latter part of 2013, when Nana Akufo-Addo appointed me as one of his aides, Kojo called me into his office and had a chat with me. He was concerned that I was getting involved in frontline politics so young and that Ghana was not like the U.K. or the U.S. But he was pleased that I was so willing to serve the public so early on in life. He advised me to build up myself so that I will be more useful to Nana Akufo-Addo. When the time came for me to join Nana Akufo-Addo after he won the 2016 elections, Kojo told me that it was a great opportunity and encouraged me to go for it. He said it was an opportunity to make a difference and he prays I do.

The executive assistants at BELA would tell you about the numerous times that Kojo used to tease me to get married. He would say, “be a responsible man and get married.” It was all in jest, but it had some seriousness to it. I would usually respond that I had a target of being married by the age of 33. I usually added that if I found the woman, I would tell him. When I decided to get married, I drove to his house one Saturday afternoon and informed him. He was very excited, and he told me to let him know how he could help. I remember on one of the days I visited him in the office, he asked me about how the counselling sessions were progressing. I then started telling him about my reservations about it. He sat back in his chair looking at me intently as I complained and said, “Counselling is the channel for women to tell you how they truly feel. Things that they cannot say to you, they will do so through counselling.” He told me about his own experience and I realised that all I needed to do was listen. When the wedding invitations were ready, I delivered his and Aunty Mercy’s to his house. When it was time to leave, my car refused to start. He joked, “hurry up and buy a new car. My soon to be daughter-in-law cannot be seen in such a car.” As we laughed, the car started. He attended the wedding with Aunty Mercy and gave us a very generous gift.

In 2018, when Lady-Ann was due to give birth, Kojo and Mercy invited us home for breakfast. We ate and chatted all morning about life, politics and legal developments. When Papa Kwesi was born finally, I sent Kojo a message announcing his arrival. He texted back, “Amen. Hallelujah. Amen. Hallelujah. I trust Lady-Ann is ok? I have been texting you these last 3 days because I felt the time was near. Great news. Mercy sends her love.” He continued to check on us, and when mother and child returned home, Kojo and Aunty Mercy came to visit. 

Kojo and I shared a passion for writing and music except that I had not mastered any musical instrument. I would sit in his study convincing him about the number of books he could write. For one of the titles, I drew up a table of contents which I shared with him. He would say, “Kow, with your new job, you will not have the time.” He managed to complete and publish the article titled, “The Regulation of Law Practice in Ghana”, which Lady-Ann assisted him with. He used to joke that I was no longer at BELA, but I had sent him a perfect replacement. For music, I loved the keyboard and so he made arrangements for me to obtain my first piano – a Kawai. He would occasionally check up on me to make sure I was playing. He would ask in Fante, “how is it going with the piano lessons.” One night after work, I sent him an audio of a practice session of G, C and D chords. He sent a text back, “Brilliant … excellent timing … you will go far.” I haven’t played in months, and I need to get back to practising. Anytime we visited him at home, he will be happy and move around following the energetic Papa Kwesi all over the house. Papa Kwesi will jump on Kojo’s keyboard and “play” some sounds. I would try to stop Papa Kwesi thinking he might spoil Kojo’s keyboard but Kojo would always say, “leave him alone; let him be.”

In 2019, when I heard he was not well, I fasted and prayed for him for three days, and on the third day, I heard “victory” in my spirit. I texted the word “victory” to him. He replied “intrigued,” but I did not respond. He sent another text after a few hours, “still intrigued”. I responded and told him why I had sent that text. He replied, “Wow! I do not deserve it, but I receive your profound support.” A month later, he told me in another text, “Secrecy and confidentiality can verge into dishonesty and I do not want to be dishonest with you.” He then told me what the problem was. I encouraged him with the words of Jesus to Peter in Matthew 14:27, which he appreciated.

We could not spend much time with him after COVID-19 hit but we kept in touch by phone calls and WhatsApp messages. The news of his passing came as a shock. We rushed to his house that evening and discovered it was true. Kojo was such a tremendous source of wisdom for me. He was humble, modest and simple. He did not like the limelight and certainly, did not encourage underserved praise. He taught me to write in very simple language and not burden readers with legal terminology. I will miss him dearly. Because of COVID-19 he never got to meet his granddaughter, Ewuradwoa.

Kojo has been a good steward of the life God gave him. He has fulfilled God’s purpose in his generation. When I started developing my spirituality, he shared his testimony of how he became born again. He told me he was one of those people who did not really believe in pastors and spirituality until one day when he was invited to a Christian meeting. I think he said it was full gospel meeting at Labadi Beach Hotel or so, I cannot remember very well. However, he said the meeting was led by Bishop Dag Heward-Mills. He said at the end of the meeting when Bishop Dag made the altar call, he did not realise what happened to him but the next minute he was at the front. He got up and went forward to receive Jesus as his Lord and personal saviour. He told me that Holy Spirit was real and when He convicts you, there is nothing you can do about it. He said he had been a believer since then. It, therefore, excites my heart that Kojo will be joining the saints in heaven, cheering us on as we run our race of faith in our generation.

So praise we great and famous men, 

The fathers named in story;

And praise the Lord who now as then,

Reveals in man His glory.

Rest in perfect peace, my dear uncle, friend and mentor, Kojo Bentsi-Enchill.

Being Naked In Marriage

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” – Genesis‬ ‭2:24-25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Many marriages are struggling today because husband and wife are fully “clothed” and being fully “clothed” leads to shame, and inevitably, struggles and breakdown. The Bible, however, encourages us to be naked in our marriages.

Being naked means being open and transparent to each other about everything (not somethings) and not keeping anything from our spouses. I don’t think this includes genuine surprises like buying a nice gift for an occasion. Lol. Even in our thoughts, we should be naked to each other. We should share what we are thinking with each other.

The Bible says they “were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Note that the requirement for being naked in marriage is neither imposed on just the man nor the just the woman. Both man and woman are required to be naked in marriage.

When husband and wife are both naked, they truly become one flesh. And there is no shame that can befall them because they know everything about each other.

May God grant us the grace to be naked in our marriages. 🙏🏽

#SecuringGodlyMarriages

What Can You Remind God Of?

“Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.” – Isaiah 38:3 NLT

Isaiah told King Hezekiah that he was going to die. Upon hearing this, Hezekiah went before the Lord and prayed the prayer in the above verse. Hezekiah knew he had a basis to petition God to review the decision regarding his imminent death. He knew the word of the Lord was final; but he also knew that the Lord was merciful and fair. Of course, God does not need to be reminded of what He knows already. However, I believe that what God knows already can be a proper basis or grounds for a petition for God to exercise His discretion in one’s favour.

That is exactly what Hezekiah did. He reminded God that he (Hezekiah) had lived a faithful life. He had been loyal to God and lived in truth. He served God solely and did everything that pleased God. These are everyday things that we are required to do as Christians. We are to served God and only God, faithfully and do what pleases Him. Doing what pleases God is doing the will of God and fulfilling your purpose on this earth. What pleases God is spelt our clearly in His word – the Bible.

Doing what pleases God in modern times may be challenging especially with all the distractions around us. But that is no excuse to go contrary to the word of God. That is why we have the sweet Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent to us as a Helper in these times. You may look at it this way: if you want to have valid grounds to petition God to exercise His discretion in your favour, then you have to do what pleases God and be faithful to Him. So before you break down and cry to God, ponder over this question: what can I remind God of? May God grant us grace always. Amen.

#Lent2019

#AdvocateForChrist

God’s Kind Of Fasting

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” – Isaiah 58:6-7

The above verses are self-explanatory and so I need not say much. Fasting is good and draws us closer to our Father in heaven. Fasting is not about just turning away food and staying hungry; we have to pray during the period of fasting. And for our prayers to be heard and answered during the fasting period or subsequently, we have to do the things that God wants. From the above verses, God wants the following:

1. Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;

2. Lighten the burden of those who work for you;

3. Let the oppressed go free;

4. Remove the chains that bind people;

5. Share your food with the hungry;

6. Give shelter to the homeless;

7. Give clothes to those who need them; and

8. Do not hide from your relatives who need help.

In summary, God wants us to demonstrate His love during a period of fasting, and indeed, at all times. We must show mercy to everyone that we can show mercy to or deserves mercy. The first four requirements (1-4) are about forgiving those who offend us just as our Father in heaven forgives us and does not hold our sins and offences against us. We must not be wicked in our ways and how we treat other people especially those over whom we have some influence or authority. The second four requirements (5-8) encourage us to show mercy in our giving. We must be generous to everyone who is hungry, homeless, poorly clothed or unclothed and to our relatives who need help.

When we do what our Father in heaven wants, He will do what we want and ask of Him. And remember He is able to do far more than we ask or even think of. Have a blessed day!

#Lent2019