The Truth of Ubuntu

Shannon Dycus lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, with her husband, Gregory and two sons – ages 4 and 6. She is co-pastor at First Mennonite Church in Indianapolis. The realities of race, power and justice are ongoing conversations as a pastor of color in a predominantly white congregation. The conversations almost always include food and grace. This post originally appeared at The Gathering Place.

One of my favorite things about being Mennonite is that we are people of the Gospel.  We are people who believe in Christ, trust in the word of Christ and seek the ways of Christ in our lives. The Christ we find in the Gospels is one who is present and compassionate, he offers healing and grace. As Christians, we celebrate and speak of the love and grace of Christ in our own lives. Yet the hardest and deepest task as Christians is to not just speak and teach the Gospel, but to be as Jesus was in the world.

How do we not just proclaim, but convey the beauty of Christ in our world today?

For the blind men, the woman with issue of blood, the 5,000 plus – Jesus was first present to them. Removing the distance between them and the grace he brought, Jesus came to them. Undoing the stigma of their cultural identity, he accepted the sacrifices it required to listen to their needs. When I think of how our Church relates to people of color, I am grieved by how much physical and emotional distance we maintain.

Our ability to preach and teach the Gospel endures while we resist the call to be present with compassion and grace as Christ did. Where are we standing?

Are we standing in our churches talking about the love of Christ to each other?


Are we standing in our courtyards and prisons and hospitals being the love of Christ for each other?

Any analysis of our current events will reveal how much distance there is between demographic groups. We do not stand in the same places when we speak about the death of Mike Brown, our presidential hope or the Doctrine of Discovery. We have not done the uncomfortable yet just work of being present physically and emotionally to others unlike ourselves.

The Gospels reveal a Christ who stands with those who are not seen or heard, under-supported and oppressed.

Where are we standing?

Where are we choosing to depart from our prevailing comfort bringing presence, compassion and healing to those outside of ourselves? The great commission bids us to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…” Matthew 28:19 (NRSV).  Discipling and baptizing are secondary to the appeal Christ first makes to “Go.” As Christ did, we are invited into the sacrifice and solidarity of standing with each other. Imagine what you might see or hear in the stories of others. Think of how you might be changed by seeing from their location.

The South African philosophy of ubuntu reminds us:

I am because you are. I exist because you exist. Whatever I do to enhance your humanity, I enhance my own.

May this be so.

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2 thoughts on “The Truth of Ubuntu

  1. Thank you for your comment. I am grateful for the diversity in the Mennonite Community, and hope to hear more from others who are unlike myself. You raise excellent points in your article, and I hope we hear more from you.

  2. The question, “Where are you standing?”, is a powerful reminder to check ourselves in the midst of our daily routines. We should ask ourselves this question daily. There is a quote that says, “It takes a village to raise a child…” I’m of the belief that this applies not just to a child but through adulthood. We’ve gotten comfortable with cultural division and lazy about the effort we put forth to be less concerned about ourselves than with others. Especially when the “others” don’t look like, talk like or act like we do. Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Are we standing with our neighbors? Or have we lost our salt – Jesus also says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Take a moment and check yourself. Ask, Where am I standing? Be blessed.


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