In South Africa there is an indigenous word that has become somewhat overused since the birth of their new democracy in 1994. This word is Ubuntu which means, “I belong, therefore I am” or “I am a person because of other people.” Ubuntu affirms the connectedness of all human beings with one another, and acknowledges that individuals can find little meaning or truth in isolation. It reminds us that we can only really find ourselves in the faces of others.
This truth lies at the heart of Christian spirituality. We proclaim that our God is both One and Three, that God’s essential nature is community, is relationship. God has never existed in some isolated, divine individualism. The essence of God is love expressed and received – diversity brought into complete unity. The challenge of worshipping this Triune God is to live out what we pray and sing in relationships. We cannot love the Trinity without also expressing God’s nature and purpose in communities of love, service and shared life.
And if we embrace this call, we discover a hidden gift of immense and eternal value. As we join with others to love God and live out our faith, we discover that we are truly connected – that the universe and everything in it is an expression of God’s Word, and is filled with God’s breath. And, as we gaze on all these ‘others’ – God, people, creature, thing – we find our place, we discover our souls, and we learn to know who we really are.
So, who are you? Who are the people that help you to know the answer to this question? And what would happen if you expanded your community to embrace those that you might prefer to exclude? I encourage you, in the weeks ahead, to seek God in your community. Not just your church community, but that of your neighbourhood, your city, your country, and even the world. Seek God in those that you disagree with and those you are afraid of. Seek God in those you consider your friends, and those you consider your enemies – for they are all created and loved by God. And as you find God in these others, as you discover your connection with these others, you may experience a surprising thing – you might just see yourself looking back from their faces.