We humans are a creative bunch. Hundreds of thousands of communities populate the planet. Unique cultures emerge.
Dictionary.com defines culture as “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.” It impacts behavior, thought patterns, and responses. How do we think? Solve problems? Respond to needs? Care for family? Make a living? It’s the quest to understand and to be in relation with neighbors.
But then…we encounter someone from another community.
Try as we may, we are incapable of complete subjectivity. Personal perspective provides the lens through which we view others. We interpret events and people from the long-held views of our own culture. Misunderstandings of motives remain the core of disagreements across cultural lines.
And yet God called us to love one another. Even enemies.
When Paul ventured out on his missionary journeys, he observed the culture in the places he visited. He interacted with people; he learned their ways. In Acts 17, we can listen in on one of his speeches…
“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an Unknown God” (Acts 17:22-23).
Paul then masterfully draws on this slice of culture to introduce the Athenians to Jesus.
To love others is to understand their unknown gods. It includes making the conscious effort to consider their experiences, their history, their circumstance. It’s the only way we’ll begin the trust needed for relationship.
The stories and lives of others matter. I am not a person of color nor someone with a physical disability. For me to understand their joys and challenges, I need to choose to learn. Writings (including memoirs, blogs, song lyrics) by authors different than me offer precious insight. Along with the similarities, I glean much about culture by learning the differences as well.
Step Beyond Culture
Research shows that people tend to remain in the culture where they are born. The Bible, however, declares that our family of faith spreads beyond these physical boundaries. No matter what our geography is, we have brothers and sisters in Christ around the planet. There is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female, rich nor poor (Galatians 3:23-29). As believers in Christ, we are a new people.
As we live into this biblical lifestyle, love for others emerges with ease.
The first disciples crossed borders to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Paul traveled all over the Mediterranean. Jesus himself said to go beyond our home to the ends of the earth. Let’s cross the street (and the city or the state or the country) to learn more about our neighbors.
Posted by Sharon R Hoover