Sawubona! This small word has the capacity to heal so many of the world’s problems. So many problems that the world has might just go away if we were to use this word in its truest denotation. It could change the heart of friends, family, strangers, and even enemies.
Before I share with you the meaning of this word, I have to explain what brought it to my attention. The man that brought it into focus is Dr. Jeff Myers, President of Summit Ministries. Dr. Myers came down to teach us for a few days this last week. He even shared with us a few stories of his own, which drew more than just the traditional round of “knowing” head nods, but also what can only be described as dumbfounded silence of awe.
The little section of what I am sharing with you is only a very small part of what God taught us through Dr. Myers. I shall endeavor to give an accurate overview of the class so you can follow along with the idea that I am trying to convey.
Dr. Myers talked about “mission.” He used mission to explain that we as Christians need to be changers of the people around us, to bring them back from the darkness of conformity. Or, as Dr. Myers so eloquently put it, Christians should be “spell breakers.” To be a spell breaker is to be the one that breaks the spell of conformity of the majority. To give people confidence to speak up for what is true.
I remember listening to the morning lecture on September 20, and hearing Dr. Myers say, “The Truth is not something we make up for ourselves. Truth became flesh and walked among us.” Obviously this comes from John 1 in the Bible. But how simply true it really is.
Dr. Garber, who was here the previous week, talked often about the “Truest Truths,” which as best as I understand it is that things that are not necessarily “Christian” still can demonstrate that “truth is woven into the very fabric of the universe.” The truth of God himself and his character revealed in his Son as well since he himself is the “Truth [That] became flesh…”
Bear with me for a moment longer, we are going to come back to “Sawubona,” you have my word. Christ, as Truth, took on humanness, and lived among us. Christ lived out the truth in its truest form: love. Christ loved without one selfish thought of Himself. He looked beyond the façade of the Pharisees. He saw past the dirt of the blind man. Jesus looked to the heart of every man, woman, or child He met.
Christ saw them for who they were. He sees me for who I am, and you for who you are. Sawubona, a greeting word from a variation of an African dialect, means “I see you.” Let that marinate for a bit. “I see [YOU]”…is that not what Christ did? And he did all things in love, right? What if we stopped walking past people and saw them as just that, “people.” What if we upheld Jesus’ example and chose to SEE THEM?
It is this very attitude that changed the people’s hearts in the Roman Empire. It is the truth that changed the heart of the disciples to follow Christ. It is the truth that took a wretch and made him a son of God. What would happen if we truly “saw” someone, I mean to truly want to see him or her? That is what James is talking about in chapter two of his letter. That the outside of a person matters not, but rather the heart of a man is what God desires.
After an evening class, Dr. Myers was leaving and I ran up to him as he was descending the stairs. He had this sticker on his laptop that said, “love thinks.” I asked him, “What is the meaning for that?” He replied, “it is the idea we came up with a few years back at Summit. To love relationally in truth.” Those words are still ringing in my ears now.
Last night we read an article by Richard John Neuhaus called “Telling the World Its Own Story,” and in this article he relates a not-so-well-known quote from Dr. Martin Luther King: “Whom you would change, you must first love, and they must know you love them.”
Sawubona is just a small word in my vocabulary, but it is one of the most important now. Because it is a simple form of love that can lead to big changes. Both in us, and those with whom we interact.
Reed Pearson is from West Point, Mississippi. With an eye for the beauty of God’s creation and a delight for the diversity of the men and women He has designed, Reed enjoys developing his skills as a photographer. Loving others unconditionally and capturing their authentic individuality through photography is one of his favorite ways to share God’s love with his community. His other interests include reading, developing friendships, travel, coffee, and tea. After completing his time at Summit Semester, Reed plans to continue working toward his degree in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations at Mississippi State University.