In my preparation for a global ministry, I have had lots of training on cultural sensitivity. Our culture is our culture and because of it we are often unaware of how it influences how we see the world around us; how we live life and the choices we make. It’s easy to go into a new culture with a judgmental heart because they do things so differently and through our lens it seems weird, foreign and sometimes just wrong.
Being culturally sensitive when stepping into new cultures is a vital part of my ministry. Entering with a heart of love and not judgement is vital. Bringing a learning spirit, rather than a know-it-all spirit or my world-is-so-much-better-than-yours spirit opens the doors to understanding and seeing the good in the different culture I’m in.
I have worked really hard at setting aside my need to be right and to have my ideas and ways of doing things validated. It’s harder than you might think! Pride always likes to raise it’s ugly head.
Stepping into a new culture in a culturally sensitive way is the way Jesus lived. Think about it, He came from the splendor of heaven to this broken and messed up planet. He chose to enter as a baby, not as a righteous King ready to bring justice down on the heads of those He had created. Instead of wrath and justice, He brought humility and sacrifice. He lived in the culture and became one of us, while still remaining God!
But Jesus didn’t let the “norms” of the day dictate how He would live and love the Father. He went against culture when it was wrong. He went out of his way to meet and sit with a Samaritan woman. He stopped where He was going to acknowledge the faith of the bleeding woman (someone in the eyes of the culture who would’ve made Jesus unclean). As a Rabbi, He washed His disciples’ feet. He was humble, when humble wasn’t even a word in their dictionary. He reached out to Zacchaeus, a hated tax collector and brought hope to his life. He threw over the tables of the men conducting business in the Synagogue. Jesus often went against the cultural norms when those norms clashed with what was right and He calls all those who follow Him to do the same.
Our culture must not be our authority. It is God’s Word and it alone that should guide our lives and behaviors. And when culture and God’s Word clash, God’s Word should always win!
In recent months, I have seen this clashing so clearly.
Southeast Asia: Church planters adamantly declaring they couldn’t look their wives in the eye and say they were sorry. That just wasn’t acceptable in their culture.
Kenya: Ethiopian pastors saying they beat their wives and their wives beat them and that is just how their culture is.
But when does God’s Word trump culture? When do we let go of allowing the culture to define our behaviors and life?
When it runs head long into God’s Word.
So if culture is culture and hard for us to see how it influences us, how are we ever to get out from underneath it? How are we ever to stop it from having power over us?
What is your measuring stick?
Is it God’s Word or the opinions of people around you? Or your own performance? Or what is culturally acceptable?
It’s not just Southeast Asia church planters and Ethiopian pastors who struggle with allowing the culture to dictate their lives, we too, have the same problem.
We let the fear of what others might think over-ride our true authority, God’s Word.
Jesus always went against culture when culture went against the Truth and we must do the same!
It’s how we show the world we’re different. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5.14-15)
And this difference draws others to THE LIGHT!
Spilling His Grace,