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  • Writer's pictureBruce Black

Be a Multi-Cultural Christian

Jeanette and I go to dinner once a month with two couples from our neighborhood.  Three of these four friends were born in South Korea, and each of them immigrated to the United States. They have become U.S. citizens and have learned to speak and read English. 


At last month’s dinner, one of our South Korean friends explained an unexpected benefit of being bi-lingual.  Let me quote him, “It isn’t just learning a new language; it is learning to be curious and excited to learn about another culture or way of life.” 


A few days after this dinner I was listening a podcast from one of my mentors, Seth Bouchelle.  Seth said, “If we’re going to be on mission with God, we need to do mission like God.”  I put my South Korean friend's comment with Seth’s and came to this realization:  Jesus was multi-cultural.  He came and learned our language but more than that, He came to earth to understand and connect with what it was like to be human.


Certainly, an essential element of a missionary’s role and effectiveness relies on learning the language of the people with whom they live.  But more importantly, the missionary needs to be curious and learn local culture, way of life, customs and worldview. 


I’ve been to London’s Heathrow Airport a couple of times. Although we speak the same language, I kept bumping into people in the airport. It finally dawned on me that people in Great Britain don’t just drive on the other side of the road, they walk on the other side of the aisle!  This is a simple example of cultural difference, and missionaries have so many more elements of culture to learn than just language. Digging deep into the lives of the people with whom they live enables them to be more accepted by locals, and more effective servants who show Jesus.


In our confusing and daunting world, there is a temptation for Christians to retreat and build a wall between “us” and “them.”  But as followers of Jesus, we are called to be like Him, and to do mission (life) like Him. Instead of withdrawing and avoiding groups of people, Jesus entered our world and was curious about everyone.  In a simple Google query you will learn that in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus is recorded as asking over 300 questions. Jesus took the time, everywhere he traveled, to learn the joys, the struggles, the sorrows and the pain of those around him...including all generations, religious beliefs, genders, and nationalities. 


I’m convinced that Jesus wants us to follow his lead and become multi-cultural.  We are called to have a heavenly point of view, and that includes a "God-view" of the world which requires us to have a curiosity about life in our current culture.  This multi-lingual, multi-cultural way of life isn’t just for missionaries serving in a foreign land, but for each of us: living as a Jesus follower on your street with people who call you neighbor.   


Jesus came to earth and became like us and to live among us.  He was the ultimate multi-cultural example. While we may struggle with understanding those around us who are different, what could be a more dramatic cultural transition than moving from heaven to earth? As a result of His example, we are able to become both merciful to others and faithful to God’s mission.

Jesus welcomed personal interaction with: Little children and Roman soldiers asking or healing for their children; wealthy young men and sacrificially-giving widows'; political leaders like Nicodemus and vertically challenged wealthy outcasts like Zacchaeus; desperate religious leaders like Jairus and an unnamed man who had been sick for 38 years; and a self-important, demeaning dinner host and a weeping woman of the street.

He came to earth to bring the best of Heaven to everyone by showing grace, mercy, engagement, love and acceptance. We are called to do the same.




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