A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed. (Desmond Tutu, No Future without Forgiveness , 1999)
A traveler through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve? (Nelson Mandela, Interview with Tim Modise , 2006)
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (ESV)
The story of the Good Samaritan is not only familiar but also invaluable. Concepts like human responsibility, equal opportunity, and social advocacy all hinge on the moral or life vitamin given by Jesus through his story of the Good Samaritan. This unnamed man in the story falls among robbers and is beaten and left for dead. The priest passes him by; the Levite passes him by; only the Samaritan, an outsider, helps him. In other words, those committed to the church overlook his pain. Only the one who has no formal connection to the institutional church does something about the situation. In this season of protests, marching, and civil unrest it should be disheartening, at times, to witness the absence of the church on the front lines. Is it because we’ve lost our desire to be radically hospitable?
Radical hospitality requires a commitment to people above policy and personhood above protocol. What is keeping you from stretching beyond your comfort zone and pressing against the norm of going along to get along? The South African principle of Ubuntu ought to serve as a reminder of the Lord’s admonition to show mercy everywhere we go, no matter how it inconveniences us. Now, “You go, and do likewise.”