I belong to a very vibrant LIFE group. This group is a very refreshing part of my ministry. This week we were on Ch 5 of our study of Mkenya Halisi, on the Man eat Man Society. And so once again I was blessed by the sharing of the group. Jeff and Anne Kimari told us how they went against the Man eat Man mentality when they helped a woman who was involved in a car accident. Jeff took the lady to hospital, called her husband and called the insurance company. All the while Anne was keeping watch over the car. Not only that, they thwarted the attempts of the matatu crew that had hit her car from behind, who were trying to tell the police that the lady had been talking on phone and that she was at fault. Anne and a few others gave the true story. Anne and Jeff were amongst those who recorded statements with the police. They also proceeded to be witnesses in court, which meant at least three trips to court. Sadly, the file disappeared and the case fizzled into the blue. But not the relationship. Jeff and Anne told us how the lady has visited them severally and still keeps in touch with them. Now that is what I call the spirit of Ubuntu, that I have said is at threat on the continent of Africa. Through acts of individuals such as Jeff and Anne, the spirit keeps alive on the continent.
Would it be a complete story to say that purely the Spirit of Ubuntu drives Jeff and Anne and others? Is there more to the story. Over this month we have been speaking on Relationships in the Fast Lane. It has been an attempt to recapture the place of relationships in a world full of pressures, because we need those relationships even more in fast paced world. I began the month by saying that our national psyche has affected the kind of people we are and by extension the kinds of relationships we have. Colonialism, the struggle for independence, the explosion of corruption and unhindered greed in the 80’s through to the post – election violence five years ago, which led to the country experiencing a sense of rebirth before and after the elections this year. Yet through all these experiences that should have deflated many a nation, there is still a remnant of people in the country like Jeff and Anne. What would drive people such as these and why shouldn’t there be more. Turn with me to Luke 10: 25 – 37 (read)
Redefining your Neighbour
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself”. That the Law could be summarised by a focus on two people says something. I am sure all of us are comfortable about the first person being God himself as the focus of our love. I guess we do not have a problem with our neighbours being the second, but we can ignore that to a certain extent because they are not at the same level as God. Especially if we are told to love our neighbours as we love ourselves and judging by what we saw of ourselves in the mirror this morning, some of us will feel we do not need too much to love our neighbour. Yet this is the Law summarised. Indeed such is its emphasis on the matter that Jesus said to the man who asked and answered the question by telling him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live”.
We are dying slowly and we may not realise it. We are dying because as I look at our relationships, many of them are in the Fast Lane. There is less and less of loving our neighbours. But could it also be that in this modern deviation from the spirit of Ubuntu, we have gotten confused about what our neighbour means. Could it also be that the downside of Ubuntu has always been that the definition of my neighbour has been my clan, then my tribe, then my people group, and then my fellow countryman. Which is why I began with the need to analyse the national psyche and its effect on our relationships. The result has been that my neighbour is the person most closely related to me from within my tribe before anything else.
For the people who listened to Jesus give this story, their definitions were challenged. For those of you who are familiar with this story, you understand that Jesus was setting the bar very high for what a neighbour was – the kind you were to love. Because at the end of the day, it was not the people from his own side of society who helped the man – coming from Jerusalem he must have been a Jew and obviously so for the Priest and the Levites. These men who were in fact the most expected to help not only passed but also crossed over to the other side. Instead the man least expected to help was the one who had mercy and not helped but went out of his way to do so. This man was considered to be the lowest kind of person in society, so much o that that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was longer just to avoid the Samaritans. He of all the people had a right to pass by this man. But no, there was to Ubuntu than their sectarian differences, thee is more to Ubuntu than our tribal differences. There is more to Ubuntu than our racial differences. Up until this time there was nothing like a Good Samaritan. Jesus redefined neighbour by this story. Does your definition of neighbour need to change?
I added a recent happening of my own to the stories of that day. Sadly mine was not as angelic as that of Jeff and Anne. I had just come from doing a good thing – dropping off guests who I had picked from the airport to their flat. It was late in the night and I was ready to go back home. On my way, I rounded a bend and suddenly there was a policeman on the side of the road next to a man lying down. You think I wanted to know. I even accelerated the car. A policeman alone next a body on the road in the middle of the night? I was not going to be the first one to discover what it was about. I am familiar with enough people who tried to be Good Samaritans in the night only to be the ones in need of a Good Samaritan. Oh no, Kenyans. I know you too well to fall for that. It turns out that it was not a hoax because that very night due to poor communication I had to go back that route to go pick my son. Now there was not just the policeman but two other very worried looking people even though there was no body.
As I said, Kenyans can very smart at hoaxing others. What this has done to us is make us suspicious of one another just as I said in my first sermon. If you are like me, how many times have you been tempted not to give way for an ambulance because you are not sure they are taking advantage just to get out of traffic? If there was a national anthem today it would be Kigeugeu by Jaguar. Who can you trust?
But can we afford to live with a goodness paralysis because of this. The Priest and the Levite experienced a sort of goodness paralysis for one reason or another. I highly suspect it was the fear of becoming unclean according to the Law of Moses. If the man was bleeding or dead, it may very well have meant several days in isolation before they became clean again. They certainly did not want this inconvenience especially if they were going to preach somewhere that weekend. But whatever the case at the end of the day, they had not loved their neighbour as they loved themselves. They had in seeking to fulfil the law not fulfilled the Law. We run into the same kind of danger today. I am not sure that given another chance I will risk that night rescue. But here is what I can do?
Conclusion: Go and do Good
First, after having redefined who my neighbour is, I will make a choice to do good.
Second, after having made the choice to do good, I will actually practice doing good. We need to start making it a part of who we are just like we make a habit of reading the scriptures. There is much opportunity to do good that you can be proactive about. This is right from helping someone in your neighbourhood to a participating in a hospital visit. But the scripture also helps us in some way about this priority. In Galatians 6: 9 – 10 it says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.
Third, just like in other areas of my walk with the Lord, I will trust Him to help me do good. When the Lord sends us to do something He gives us the willingness and ability to do it. The very last words he says to the expert of the Law in v 37 were, “Go and do likewise … and if we backtrack to the words in v 28 it would be “Go do this and you will live”. When we seek to obey the Lord He gives us strength. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His purpose”. It is God who enables Jeff and Anne and any of His people who will obey Him to keep alive the spirit of Ubuntu in this world of Relationships in the Fast Lane.