While I was conducting a seminar in Burundi (a small country next to Rwanda in Central Africa) last year, I asked the pastors I was leading to tell me about the impact of Christianity on their family practices. Among the things they told me was that since they became Christian, they were economically better off, because they no longer had to sacrifice their livestock to Kiranga. Kiranga is the dominant local god in Burundi. If a family wanted many children, which of course they all did, they had to sacrifice to him.

The gods of traditional religions, including the Greco-Roman pantheon we all read about in school — Zeus, Athena, Venus — did not care about people. These gods are no fools. They would do things for people, but they had to be bribed. And frankly, you did not want Zeus to care about you. If you came to his attention, you were likely to be raped, and then pursued by his jealous wife, Hera, for the rest of your life. Furthermore, the gods had no integrity. If your neighbor is envious of your many children, he could easily bribe the same god to take the children away.

What a contrast with the Judeo-Christian God! This God loves us, and gives us good things without having to be bribed. All the God who Loves People asks in return is that we treat each other with that same love. Human relationships, whether with God or with each other, must no longer be based on economic transactions but on agape love — caring concern for each other.