Ubuntu and Imago Dei

There is a norm in many African cultures called “ubuntu” which encapsulates the concept that “I am because we are.  And since we are, therefore I am”.  This is a group thinking concept that is very different than Western individualistic thinking.  The idea is that in terms of others does the individual become conscious of his own being.  I exist because I belong to a family.

Therefore, a wife belongs to a man, but she also belongs to the community and thus it cares for her and the same for children in a village.  Moral virtues are based on the well-being of the whole community.

Now obviously there are situations in Africa that don’t illustrate this: Boko Haran, Lost Boys of Sudan, Jihadist activity just to name a few. But this is not the norm in terms of the ideals of much of African culture.

An African pastor is promoting this ideal and linking it to the biblical concept of Imago Dei.  That ubuntu is rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the bible.  We are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27), therefore we are all infinitely valuable and the same.  We are all one family (Acts 17:26), and we all need forgiveness and need to work towards reconciliation (Dan 9, Neh 1) because we bear the name of God.

Do you feel disconnected with any one group of people with whom you differ?  Democrat/Republican, Gay/Straight, Transgenders, child molesters, abortionists, people from a particular race or religion, etc….  the list goes on.

Can you fathom that God’s image is in “them” as it is in you?  That you share the same lineage and 99% of the same DNA?  It’s not easy.

God made many from the one and he is working to restore our fractured broken world.  If we can see the world through ubuntu and Imago Dei perhaps we can work towards reconciliation, as if he was making his appeal through us (2 Cor 5:14-20).

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