As a part of understanding the continent I’m
living on better I’m reading through some African literature.

Yesterday I read through Chinua Achebe’s
“Things fall apart”.  It was
riveting. The book is divided into three parts and tells about the life of a great
warrior (Part1) called Okonkwo and how his life changes with his exile from his
village (Part 2) and the coming of the missionaries eventuates in “things
falling apart” (Part 3).

I finished the book last night and one of the
dialogues keep crashing on my mind like the waves at the ocean.  It is a conversation between Okwonkwo
and his friend Obierika.  It
concerns the coming of the missionaries …

Okwonko asks:

the white man understand our custom about land?”

Obierika answers:

“How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says that
our customs are bad; and our own brothers who have taken up his religion also
say that our customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own
brothers have turned against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and
peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him
to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one.
He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen

The line, “he has put a knife on the things that
held us together” refers to the customs, stories, ceremonies and religious
rhythms of the clan.  These rhythms
“held the clan together”.  I find
this phrase interesting in that it is a sentiment that we pick up in the Biblical
narrative and specifically in the book of Acts as well.  The first followers of Jesus were, to
use Achebe’s phrase, people who “act like one”. 

In Acts the word used for this relational rhythm
is “homothumadon” – translated as “with one accord”.  Eugene Peterson shows that this word is one of those words
that are hard to translate. 
Peterson syas that,

“Of one mind” or “together” or “of one accord” seem
too tame to me.
is a compound word.
means the same.
Thumas means
a strong emotion of anger, and the final syllable
don suggests that the word is
adverbial. It is the middle component —
— that won’t translate.

Thumas is a fiery word, surging with energy. Flying off the handle, losing
your temper, lashing out — except in the context of the resurrection community,
there is nothing negative in it. No meanness. No violence. How do we get that
intensity, that fire, that focused and controlled energy into a single English
word that is energetic in love and peace and congenial community? I can’t find
one. That’s why I just want to say
There was something burning within those followers of Jesus, drawing them
together in the same mind and spirit. Something akin to the energy of anger but
without anger.


So last night I was thinking about the knife that
is being put to our “clans”.  What
is it that makes us “fall apart”?  

I know what it looks like when a clan experiences this togetherness and when
we’re acting as one.  God
definitely authors this passionate community, but we have a responsibility to
nurture it – “
to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  Your thoughts?

[1] The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson, pp 261-264