|photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/6883580230/|
Different cultures. Different customs.
Our daughter, about nine years old at the time, was visiting in a friend’s home in a neighboring country. A large group was seated around the table for a meal when a visitor stopped by. The visiting man started greeting with kisses to the cheeks everyone around the table, male and female. When he got to our daughter, she . . . disappeared under the table! The poor man was left standing there with a bewildered expression on his face.
A preacher was preaching a series of meetings in Eastern Europe. He was greeted by so many unshaven men that he felt like his cheeks were bleeding!
A missionary friend confesses he used to try to sneak away from any man coming his way. He now proclaims, “I kiss everyone!”
How I remember those first invasions of personal space! We came to Spain as young adults. (I’m from a hugging family, but this . . . .) One of my Spanish friends—a young woman—hooked her arm into mine and pressed her whole side into me as we walked down the street. I couldn’t get away! In Spain, people greet with kisses on both cheeks. (The farther south you go, the more kisses you get.) Where we live, basically it’s between women or when a young person greets an older woman. It depends, and we basically go with the flow.
The Bible says, Greet one another with an holy kiss. (It looks like the Apostle Paul was a kisser, too! Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26)
Whether or not kissing is the way you greet people in your country is beside the point. But I’d be willing to bet—not with money, mind you—you’ve sometimes felt “invaded.”
- lack of privacy
- being on call every hour of every day
- unannounced visitors—especially at mealtimes
- reptile, insect, and other uninvited animal visitors in your home
- filth (dirt and germs, customs, immorality)
- safety concerns
- open idolatry, demonic activity, pagan customs
- total unbelief in God, the Bible, even Christian traditions—a total disrespect for religion in any form
Just as kissed greetings are an invasion of our “personal space,” so some native customs are an invasion into what we know is right. Many are just plain opposite God’s norms.
It’s so easy to view all the culture as sinful. We can see all the people’s habits as wrong. We may look around us and find no good, no positive, no redeemable anything. This missionary philosophy will lead us to this conclusion: the people are without hope.
So, what can we do?
Get a biblical mindset. Philippians 4:8 can be transformational on the mission field. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. We’re to think about and look for the good things!
What’s positive about your adopted culture? Can you find something nice about their clothing, food, frugality, music, cleanliness, agricultural methods, friendliness, architecture, livestock . . . anything? Surely, there’s something positive!
When you think about the good things—whatever they may be—your whole attitude improves. Your heart begins to praise God for the true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, and virtuous things in your adopted culture. Even if it’s a totally pagan culture—the reason you went in the first place—there is something to be praised in it. You don’t have to compromise your beliefs in Bible Christianity to compliment your neighbors on a fruit tree or beautiful flowers! You’re not looking down your nose at people when they’re teaching you how to milk goats, plant maize, or make their special stew. (You actually get closer to your people when you ask them how they do something.)
You have the Words of Life—the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!
And they have their own culture.
Oh yes, almost any culture has its bad points. (If you’re honest, America’s culture isn’t 100% pristine either.) Where customs disagree with the Bible, they need to be changed. This happens as Christians begin living more like Christ.
You can actually see that change. Places that didn’t have the gospel fifty years ago have been transformed by the influence of the Bible. People who used to go around naked now wear clothes. Permissive lifestyles have given way to solid marriages. Churches are ordaining native pastors. Second generation Christians live clean, exemplary lives.
If you don’t look for the good in your adopted home, you may become prideful. You might be teaching your kids that your family is “good” and everyone around them is sinful. Neither you nor your children make friends, and you deaden your ministry. You become haughty. And you end up useless to God.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-8).
The mind of Jesus. The servant’s heart.
Let this mind be in you . . . .
Share the Good News. Jesus saves!
Greet the brethren with a holy kiss.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/6883580230/">Alex E. Proimos</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">cc</a>