I have just finished reading a book called One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow by Scot Mcknight. One part that struck me was when he wrote about the South African Bantu concept of Ubuntu. It is a word that comes from the Bantu phrase: umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, which translates to, “a person is a person through [other] persons.” It is an idea that resonates with Jesus’ prayer for the disciples and all believers in John 17:22-23 (NIV): “That they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
It is crucial that we, who claim to be believers and followers of Jesus, live a life and example that shows the rest of the world our allegiance to a Father, Saviour-Son and Holy Spirit that models for us a “complete unity” that is not just community on the social level, but a total and holistic integration of hearts, minds and souls – a collective of kingdom-minded people whose whole bodies and spirits are committed to Christ as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” as this is our “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1, NIV).
In reality, we are all tugged in various directions – by our individualistic ambitions, goals, plans and dreams – and most of us are tempted to look inwardly, thus living our lives as such. For many, faith in Jesus has become about their own self-fulfilment and the discovery of what matters for themselves, independent of others. We even justify our attitude by claiming that our intentions are for the advancement of God’s kingdom. However, no matter how noble our righteous ambitions are, they should not take precedence over Jesus’ command that we serve others just as he came to serve us and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). This calls for us to do whatever that we plan to do in light of the Cross – which represents a dying to self.
If we are to reflect on and learn from the concept of Ubuntu from a Christian perspective, we must delve deeper and home in on Jesus’ call for us to love God and love people with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. It means we can only relate with one another and love each other fully – with all our emotion, imagination, creativity, innovation and abilities – if we first choose to abide in the love of Christ and so find our identity, our person in Him. Only out of that communion and relationship can our hearts and minds be renewed so that we may live unselfishly, with and for others.
~ J a n i e ll e