Last week I read something that was posted by Spiritual Ecology on Facebook. This is what it said:
The Babemba tribe of Africa believes that each human being comes into the world as good. Each one of us only desiring safety, disorder love, medic peace and happiness.
But sometimes, in the pursuit of these things, people make mistakes.
When a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he/she is placed in the center of the village, alone, unfettered. All work ceases. All gather around the accused individual. Then each person of every age, begins to talk out loud to the accused. One at a time, each person tells all the good things the one in the center ever did in his/her lifetime.
Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length.
The tribal ceremony often lasts several days, not ceasing until everyone is drained of every positive comment that can be mustered. At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe. Necessity for such ceremonies is rare.
Isn’t that beautiful? It turns out that this story is most likely not true, but it still really stuck with me and I feel that we can learn a lot from it.
Most Christians have some sort of conception of original sin. Depending on one’s understanding, this can mean a few things. One understanding is that everyone who is born automatically shares Adam and Eve’s guilt for eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, when you become a Christian you are absolved of your guilt and avoid the punishment you deserved. Another understanding is that everyone is born into a fallen world and shares in the brokenness of this world, meaning that when you become a Christian, you receive healing of your brokenness. Or it could be some sort of nuanced combination of these two perspectives. I personally hold to the second view, but either way the end result is the same–a life free from sin.
Paul writes about this transformation constantly. Here are just some examples:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -2 Corinthians 5:21
God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. -Galatians 4:5, NLT
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” -Galatians 3:13
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. -Romans 8:11
After we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within us. We are transformed into sons and daughters of the living God, we become co-heirs with Christ, and we are set free from the curse of sin. But I think as Christians, we often completely forget this.
Read what Paul writes in Colossians:
And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister. – Colossians 1:21-23
Did you all catch that? You were FORMERLY alienated YET NOW you are HOLY and BLAMELESS and BEYOND REPROACH.
How many times have you been told by your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ that you are holy and blameless? How many times has that been taught on Sunday morning?
I think so many of us never make the switch of thinking of ourselves as holy, we continue to think about ourselves as sinners, alienated, hostile in mind, and engaged in evil deeds. And we forget the crucial words YET HE HAS NOW. You are not a sinner. You may sin but sinner is not your identity. Jesus did not disarm the powers and authorities by making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross for you to continue to live out your identity as a sinner. You are a daughter. You are a son. You are equal to Christ (Rom 8:17). What if we really believed that?
That’s why I loved the story of the African tribe so much…Even if Christians don’t believe that we are born holy, Jesus makes clear that we are re-born into holiness. What if when one of our sisters or brothers in Christ sinned we didn’t think, “Well it’s inevitable that we sin because we’re sinners,” but instead gathered around them and reminded them of WHO THEY ARE, of their own HOLINESS through Christ Jesus our Lord?
I know in my life I’ve had a really hard time seeing myself as blameless and holy and pure in God’s eyes–Satan’s really good at convincing us otherwise. And this is precisely why in our communities we need to remind each other of who we actually are and call each other higher. Because the deepest reality is that you are HOLY. You are BLAMELESS. You are LOVED by the Most High who does not doubt your holiness.