BIAY – Genesis 5 – Ubuntu


It is really easy to just skip the family trees that show up in the Bible such as this one in Genesis 5. Begat… begat… was the father of… etc. But there some amazing stuff within them. In Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, there are two women (Rahab and Ruth) who are “outsiders” and are, along with Tamar and an unnamed Bathsheba, the only women named until you get to Mary at the end of it. And in this first genealogy, there’s something remarkable that is easily missed if it is just skimmed over and it is honestly something that I do not remember EVER having read before even though I have read through the Bible many times.

This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind, he made them in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them “Humankind” when they were created. 

Genesis 5:1-2

It is only after this statement that the rest of the genealogy follows.  This statement reaffirms what is, for me, one of the core truths of our relationship with God.  We are each of us, regardless of background, color, race, gender, status, language, anything…we are each created in the image of God.   And as such, we are bound to each other even though we try so desperately to find ways to separate ourselves from one another.  

In his book, No Future Without Forgiveness, Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who just recently died) wrote this about he understood the word ubuntu.  

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu, u nobuntu”; “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.” It is not, “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has 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, or treated as if they were less than who they are.

Tutu, Desmond. No Future Without Forgiveness (p. 31). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

So when I read the words from Genesis 5 reminding us of how we are all created in the image of God, I think of this sense of ubuntu that Archbishop Tutu described.  

It is why I love this photo so much.  It was taken while at lunch with friends we met and served with in Kenya in 2019.  Different ages, backgrounds, languages, colors, but all together linked as siblings in Christ serving and sharing the Gospel.  

Ubuntu.  

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