Kola nuts

By Victor Leslie, Colonel –

The owner of the Nigerian house we are visiting receives the platter from the hands of one of the invisible women in the kitchen. It is full of nuts, garden eggs and a small bowl of peanut butter. I quietly but intently watch as the homeowner takes a nut and puts it to his lips, signifying the establishment of love and trust and symbolically announcing that his intentions, in good faith, are free from hatred or evil.

Soon a ritualistic ceremony begins and the plate is passed from hand to hand in a culturally defined order of seniority, from young to old, women notably excluded, until it finally comes to rest in the hand of an elder. From all indication, he is the revered custodian of knowledge, truth and all wisdom. I learn that it is expected of the eldest person in the room to say the blessing of the kola and so we patiently and respectfully wait for the sacred prayer to commence.

To my surprise, he turns and passes the dish to me—the ordained minister, the one consecrated to God—to accept the privilege of praying the blessing of peace, prosperity, long life, happiness and protection for all present. But in deference to tradition, I must politely decline and return the kola to the elder, since I am unable to speak in the vernacular and the “kola does not hear English.”

The dish is lifted up, the blessing is said and I am given two kola nuts, one to break and the other to put in my pocket for “when the kola nut reaches home, it will tell where it came from.” The ritual quickens as all in the room, regardless of their different religious beliefs and social standing, willingly begin to participate in the breaking and eating of the communal, sacramental offering. As the love feast lingers, the elder gently interrupts, with an air of finality, and solemnly says, as translated, “he who brings kola, brings life.”

It seems to me that this infectious ceremony is like a marriage of the natural and the supernatural. In a natural sense, it is an amazing cultural and social symbol of hospitality, goodwill and community. Yet, there are significant supernatural overtones. Did we not first learn about this sense of togetherness, unity, friendship and harmony from the Scriptures? It was the song of the Israelites: Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head (Ps. 133:1-2 KJV). It was the heartbeat of Jesus: “[I pray] that they may all be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17: 21). And it was the mainstay of the early church believers: And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart (Acts 2:44-46).

In a country where insecurity, tribal conflict and untimely death are interwoven, it is understandable how this phenomenon of the kola nut ceremony is treasured by most. In the natural sense, it speaks of peace and reconciliation and the bringing of life. Yet, our reality here teaches that for true peace and reconciliation and the giving of life to occur, we must travel to the realms of the supernatural and connect with the triune God.

It is God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18). It is through Jesus that we experience the peace of God, which passeth all understanding (Phil. 4:7). And in case there was any doubt, John 6:63 certifies: What gives life is God’s Spirit; human power is of no use at all. The words I have spoken to you bring God’s life-giving Spirit.

As the ceremony subsides, I leave the room with a kola nut in my pocket, thankful for the experience, refreshed by the spirit of welcome and renewed by the revelation that we have not received this world’s spirit; instead, we have received the Spirit sent by God, so that we may know all that God has given us (1 Cor. 2:12 GNT).

When I reach home, I will speak of my journey.

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