Western Individualism Meets African Ubuntu: We Are Because He (Jesus) Is

The African Ubuntu worldview is reflected in the statement: “I am because We are.”   One of the clearest expressions of this concept of interdependence is found in an African proverb that says: “All things are interdependent”.  Another rendering of the sentiment is that no one can dare live without support from another person as alone, success cannot be assured. 

Ubuntu takes us to the essence of being a Christian faith community. ’ĕmûnâhfaith; a word first used in scripture when Moses had his arms held up high and steady by Aaron and Hur, while Joshua fought the Amalekites down in the valley (Exodus 17v12).  Christian Ubuntu therefore points us again to the interdependent nature of faith, which must support one another in the pursuit and worship of God.  This comes to the fore when the battles of life are unfavorable and an individual tires, the church community links arms to provide support.  (Is this our experience of church…?)

We often hear, even in places of great revival and rapid growth where the church seems most alive, that the church is “a mile wide and an inch deep.”  We desperately need to regain a profound sense of Christ-like community to prevent the curse of superficiality and individualism from undoing the hard won gains of the gospel.  We need to re-learn to live deeply together as a community that knows that all things are interdependent (even in relation to wealth, and the environment).  That faith is holding each other’s arms high and steady in the worship of God.

The Western evangelical notion of ”I am because He (Jesus) is” needs to be complimented by another biblical truth of “We are because He is.”  This is Christ-centered Ubuntu.  This is what Paul calls us to be when he speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ.  Can we get there again?