African Voices on Grace

What does grace look like in different parts of the world?

This is the question I asked to some of my Bible School staff as a part of their internship. The program adds extra assignments to their staff duties to be intentional about their growth.

One of our staff from Zimbabwe, told the story of how her family used to worship and attempt to gain favor from the gods through traditional worship. This practice often involves praying to the ancestors for favor.

Worship would occur by focusing ones attention on an animal that represented the ancestors. They would brew beer, consuming it while praying to the animal.

Outside of worship times this animal always needed to be respected and honored. You could not beat the animal or even prod it in a certain direction. It was considered sacred.

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(Photo by Marysol Blomerus

In ancestor worship you can offend the gods at every turn. You constantly live in fear of making a mistake or wondering if you have done enough to appease them. There will be no blessing, or something bad will happen if the gods are not satisfied.

This mentality carried over into everyday life for my Zimbabwean sister. There are constant expectations to perform by a woman in her culture.

In a marriage, if a wife is not able to cook or bear a child, that person is taken back or divorced. Not performing those duties brings a huge sense of shame. Expectations need to be met, or the person fails. In this mindset, there is no ability to learn or be walked with in a process of growth.

When my friend became a Christian and learned of grace, it was these areas that things radically changed.

No longer did she need to manipulate the gods to have their favor. She could boldly approach the throne of grace from a position of being righteous. Fear in worship turned to undeserved kindness. There was no hoping that the good outweighed the bad. The scale has been tipped.

Even everyday life took a new turn. My friend says the following of grace: “Grace gives me the opportunity to grow and make mistakes without condemning myself. Now I need to rely on God in everything, not my own strength or ability to succeed. Grace felt so much more like freedom.

Put yourself in her story. Imagine the change in your approach. Previously fear dominates your thoughts of the gods. You worry if you’ve done enough to merit their favor.

Now, you have favor you have not earned of deserved. Fear has turned to love and gratitude.

There is a part of God and His Character found in all cultures. When we learn from one another, we see aspects of God in a way our culture cannot express. The picture of grace becomes fuller as we hear each others stories.

What is your story?

What is a way you have seen the grace of God in your culture or background?