In the Ndebele culture, the worship of God is through the ancestral spirits. In other words, in that religion, humans are considered as dying physically, but spiritually, they do not die. The ancestral spirit religion belief is as real as anything considered as such—though not proven physically. The origins of the ancestral spirit worship may not be readily available—due to lack of documentation in the Ndebele traditions. But it was orally passed on from generation to generation—from time immemorial—until Christianity brought changes.
While those living were assumed as unable to recognize the dead, the dead were considered able to watch over the living. The dead would be able to communicate with the living, through the spirit medium. Without a spirit medium, the elder member of the clan, would take over as able to convey messages of the living to the dead. What was necessary was the certainty of the existence of the ancestral spirits. Such ancestral spirits were considered able to provide peace and prosperity in the village.
In this culture—possibly similar with other cultures—there had been proven positive communication, as long as the rites were followed accurately. There was belief in one God, whose name was interchangeable as: u “Nkulunkulu,” u “Mlimu,” u “Mdhali we zinto zonke,” u “Somandla,” etc. All such names implied the existence of a monotheistic God. If the Jews couldn’t accept Jesus—due to their traditional worship of a monotheistic God—the ancestral spirit worshipers, held similar resistance.
The ancestral spirit worship was practiced through an elder in the clan, or through a spirit medium. In other words, there would be communication between the living and the dead. The elder of the clan directed his/her communication to those having recently died, as known by him/her. He/she would then request them to convey the requests to the unknown ancestors—but known by them. The transmission would be clearly considered as not mythical—as practiced through what the practitioners understood, as workable.
The protocol was followed religiously, as considered to spiritually go from one ancestral level to the other. The conveyance of such requests, continued until they reached God Almighty. The bottom line being that those people believed in one true God, not known by physical humans—as the Supreme Being. But they would not communicate with Him directly, but through their ancestors.
The rituals and other activities, could not be readily understood by Christian missionaries, who were quick to assume that those worshipers were superstitious. But, in my view, the ancestral worshipers were more civilized than idol worshipers, for instance. Christian missionaries could not understand those descent worshipers, because they assumed being better than them.
The only difference between the Ndebele ancestral worshipers and Israelites, is that the Israelites had everything recorded in scrolls. Record-keeping can be the most reliable endeavor in maintaining customs. The Ndebele ancestral worshipers relied on oral communication, from one generation to the other.
Therefore, there is a lot that cannot be known about the Ndebele ancestral worship. The story of the Exodus, may not have been an expedition limited to the Israelites, as the only chosen nation. While Scriptures point to the Israelites as having been the chosen nation, this could be on account of having had their activities, recorded.
Consider the anecdote of Job, in the Old Testament Bible. Job was a man from the East, with no relationship with the Israelites. But, in Job we are shown a faithful worshiper—possibly, highly regarded than most of the known Israelite prophets. While not much information can be accessed about the origin of ancestral worship, the Almighty God appears as having been involved.
Those people were considered as primitive, by those good at invalidating other people. But nothing takes away the fact that, in God’s image those people were created—just as the ones invalidating them were created in God’s image.
As the only hope of humanity, Jesus came to set the record straight. The ground work was set through Abraham, whose communication with God was not through ancestral worship. The Israelites worshiped God through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In other words, the Israelites also got trapped in ancestral worship, like the traditional Ndebele worshipers, or any other ancestral worshiper.
The Israelites got fixated on Moses, thereby losing the fact that Moses was as fallible as any other human being. The ancestral worshipers also assumed that their ancestors were better informed about God. But that assumption could not have been accurate. Only Jesus held an unadulterated link with the Almighty God. This is why Jesus declared being the way, the truth and the Life (John 14:6).
All humans are equal, in the eyes of God. But, I suppose I should not say in the eyes of God—but in the eyes of those who know God. If God created humans in His own image, how dare can anyone knowing God assume that humans are not equal? Of course, in the eyes of sinful humanity, people are not equal.
But, after God has taken away the veil of ignorance, the person begins to appreciate how foolish, categorizing people can be. Humans are as equal, just as a human being is composed of one unit—though with different body parts. Being enlightened ahead of others does not make one better than others, necessarily.
That enlightenment bestows responsibility on the enlightened person to enlighten others. As long as those other people remain unenlightened, the enlightened person would not be enlightened as well. This is the basic principle of Christianity that has remained hidden to most people, since the early Church.
The interpretation of believing in Jesus, has always been associated with bestowing responsibility on Jesus, rather than applying what Jesus taught. Ordinary Christians consider grace as implying receiving physical blessings and praising Jesus. There is nothing wrong with that behavior. But what is wrong is for such people to then call themselves, Christians:
“Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27) (ESV).
Jesus was talking to people who were just as similar to those considering Christianity as implying receiving physical blessings from Jesus. Those people loved Jesus, just as most of those calling themselves Christians assume they love Jesus. But as long as not duplicating what Jesus meant—in the above scripture—those people did not believe in Jesus.
An ancestral spirit worshiper may totally believe in the existence of the Almighty God. Just as a Jewish worshiper believes in the existence of the monotheistic Almighty God. But to believe in Jesus implies forsaking those ancestors, including Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus becomes the only means through which a person can access God Almighty.
The definition of believing in Jesus implies using Jesus as model for Christian living. That happens to be the only way that enables a person to then receive the enabling Holy Spirit. It is not possible for the Holy Spirit to enter into a person who has not yet believed in Jesus (Acts 2:37-38).
The story of Adam reveals how God banished humanity from accessing the Holy Spirit (Genesis 3:23-24). In other words, the Holy Spirit—linking us directly to God Almighty—became no longer accessible to humanity, until the sacrifice of Jesus. When carefully looking at processes leading to the death of Jesus, one sees that His death was not ordinary.
The gruesome violence used—even when considering human standards—was not explicable, for the crime leveled against Jesus. Divinity was, obviously, involved in that development. Jesus did not need to defend Himself against such barbaric frenzy. When Jesus declared that He was the way, the truth and the Life, He meant that by believing in Jesus one could also not be intimidated when similarly convicted. A true Christian becomes willing to die without murmur.
The way of Jesus, therefore, is not what is commonly assumed by those enjoying privileges of healing and other blessings. Such privileges, while available through the services of Christianity, are not an end in themselves. To be a Christian, requires surrendering everything—desiring to be used by Christ, accordingly.
Among the ancestral worshipers we have those considered as good people. This is just as among the Jewish worshipers and even among the sinful Samaritans, we had good people. But believing in Jesus implies that there is no other human who could champion the significance of the cross, other than Jesus.
The ideal significance is knowing that believing in Jesus implies assumption of responsibility over sinfulness in humanity. This has got nothing to do with personal salvation, necessarily. It implies appreciating the responsibility of carrying other people’s sinful burdens unto death.
While the naïve, assume that believing in Jesus is an advantage, the informed know that there is no advantage, necessarily. It implies taking the responsibility to enlighten others of the new mind pattern. People are used to focusing on personal salvation. But the new way of life implies focusing on salvaging other humans from sinfulness.
That is a tough responsibility, capped with what Jesus said: Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27) (ESV). That cross has got nothing to do with personal salvation—achieved by Jesus, after all. No-one else ever took that legendary responsibility—of being the way, the truth and the life. What is required of humanity is the change of mind-set.
We are used to the principle of receiving good things—enjoyed as blessings for ourselves. But, in this new way of life—as advocated by Jesus—blessings mean what is totally different. Blessings become blessings, only when other people access value through such Christians’ existence.
True Christians feel good, only when other people feel blessed—through the services of such true Christians. Driving beautiful cars and staying in expensive suburbs, is not associated with blessings for true Christians. Such comfortable life-styles are, indeed, considered blessings—to those having received services from true Christians. But such receiving does not necessarily make those, apparently, fortunate receivers, Christians.
This is what makes most of what is written on this website too complicated for most people. The idea of worshiping God, according to the Law and Prophets, ended with John the Baptist, according to Jesus (Luke 16:16). Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, whose mind pattern consists of the opposite of what is commonly adopted by ordinary humanity.
By the way, this does not require education or any other human consideration. It simply requires the principle of believing in Jesus. Such believers are like Shadrach Meshach and Abednego, who expressed willingness to lose their lives. For what they considered as honest cause—for their objectives in obeying God.
They did not put value in their own lives, ahead of God. Even though Jesus had not yet died, the three lads demonstrated being true Christians. The display of simply loving Jesus is not scarce, in the world we live in. People are fond of sensationally dramatizing their commitment to love Jesus. While not qualified to judge, there is some truth in that most of those people do not know what they would be doing.
Those people may be sincere, but due to abundance of treachery, the possibility of deception would be aplenty. This is when observing most of them proudly calling themselves, Christians; yet denouncing the responsibility that goes with Christianity. There is room for changing—before they can then receive blessings of believing in Jesus. Just as there is room for every other human to change and receive blessings, associated with believing in Jesus.
This calls for such people to realize the difference between believing in Jesus, and having faith in Jesus. The two are diametrical opposites. A person who believes in Jesus is not different from Jesus. Yet, the person with faith in Jesus, settles for the blessings of healing and other goodies. See [Believing in Jesus is different from having faith in Jesus].
A dead person and a true Christian are not different—in terms of the benefits obtainable in this world. They both no longer have any share of what this world offers. The only difference is in that a true Christian has his own life redeemed. That person would have become the Son of God, just as Jesus became the Son of God. That means the value of that Christian is closest to the value of Jesus.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
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