I heard a story this week that captured my heart. Strangely, it was in a corporate leadership meeting, and my co-workers and I were listening to a guest speaker who was encouraging us to be open to compassion and friendliness as character traits of a good leader.
The story goes like this: An anthropologist had gone to Africa to be with a remote group of indians for a period of time for research. During his stay, he became warmly attracted to the children in the village and wanted to do something special for them. He decided to give them a basket of chocolates (a rare treat). Wanting to make it a fun game for them, he placed the basket at the top of a hill under a tree and then instructed them to “run get it.”
He expected that they would race, as would be normal for children to do, as one would surely want to be the first to get to the prize. However, this they did not do. Instead, they all joined hands and began to run, making a rather disjointed looking line along the slope of the hill as they climbed it together.
Wondering about what had prompted this expression of solidarity, he asked the oldest of the children to explain. The child simply said, “Ubuntu.” Turning to his interpreter, the gift-bearing anthropologist received this translation: “I am who I am, because we are who we are.”
Our guest speaker said those words and let them hang in the air for a long minute before she moved us on to the final discussion phase of our meeting. Personally, I wanted to find a prayer closet. I felt I needed to be alone to unpack my mental and emotional response. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good competition and all the more if I’m the winner. But there was something about this story that had pierced my heart, and I wanted to take the time to investigate my thoughts and feelings.
I am who I am, because we are who we are. I found my mind going to several passages of Scripture that talk about the people of God, the city of God and the reality that if we belong to Christ, we belong to His whole house, and we are on a journey that will bring us home to where He is. In Hebrews 11:9-10, the Scripture says of Abraham: “By faith he lived as a stranger in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
And then this one in 1 John 3:16: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers and sisters.” We are a community of believers because we have faith in Jesus. We are the family of God, because Jesus purchased the right for us to be called the children of God. We represent Him in the world by the way we love one another with affection, kindness and enduring commitment.
God binds us together in love. He is fitting us together as living stones (1 Peter 2:5). It isn’t that “I” am lost in the “we,” rather it is that what we become as the body of Christ is also who I am. He made me, called me, and placed me in His body strategically, but in His body I am. And I cannot come to a full and true knowledge of who He is without all the other members of that body.
In Ephesians 3:17-19, Paul prays (and I pray): “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Beloved, let us join hands and run with endurance the race He has set before us.
Until next week, dear friends, let the love of Christ, His compassion and mercy be the motive of your heart.