How One African Tribe Reconciles

My friend Joe Whitcomb is speaking at Oneonta (that’s “oh-née-oh-ta) Congregational Church in South Pasadena today on reconciliation, and I love what he texted me this morning:

“Today I am speaking at a church on “Reconciliation: Healing Fractured Relationships in a Disconnected World”

The search for Jesus is about reconciling loss and tragedy to God and us.
As long as we share our stories, as long as our stories reveal our strengths and vulnerabilities to each other, we reinvigorte our understanding and tolerance for the little quirks of personality that in other circumstances would drive us apart. When we live in a family, a community, a country where we know each other’s true stories, we remember our capacity to lean in and love each other into wholeness.

I have read the story of a tribe in southern Africa called the Babemba in which a person doing something wrong, something that destroys this delicate social net, brings all work in the village to a halt. The people gather around the “offender,” and one by one they begin to recite everything he has done right in his life: every good deed, thoughtful behavior, act of social responsibility. These things have to be true about the person, and spoken honestly, but the time-honored consequence of misbehavior is to appreciate that person back into the better part of himself. The person is given the chance to remember who he is and why he is important to the life of the village.

I want to live under such a practice of compassion. When I forget my place, when I lash out with some private wounding in a public way, I want to be remembered back into alignment with my self and my purpose. I want to live with the opportunity for reconciliation. When someone around me is thoughtless or cruel, I want to be given the chance to respond with a ritual that creates the possibility of reconnection. I want to live in a neighborhood where people don’t shoot first, don’t sue first, where people are Storycatchers willing to discover in strangers the mirror of themselves.”

I think this is a way of God’s Grace and Love, in a world where the culture of negative reinforcement has driven and motivated us be good through the fear of punishment. We live up to expectations through our fear of Shame, but how long is that going to last before we are filled with bitterness, anger, low self-esteem, low self-worth, and poor self-image. As believers, we believe that God’s Grace and Love reconciled us unto Himself, reconnecting us back to Him, because we are His Sons and Daughters, His Beloved. God’s Love and Grace is the coruscating light in our dark, shame motivated world.

The question, will the offender accept what the villagers are doing for him as them loving him, or will he seethe with suspicion? Will we embrace the Light , the Truth of God’s Grace and Love, or will we continue to live in the Darkness of Shame and Fear?

Joe will also be speaking next Sunday as well at Oneonta Church in South Pasadena, service starts at 10:30am.

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