By IET Communications
Many of us in The Navigators have lived in cross-cultural contexts relating to people very different than ourselves. We routinely relate with people from every cultural and religious context under the sun.
But for most of us, life certainly didn’t start out this way. We were just plain folk, raised within our distinct cultures. After some years of study and trying new ways of sharing Christ, we have learned to talk about Jesus as the eternal king reigning over His eternal kingdom. This often makes sense to people in a way that a discussion about religion often does not. It is not combative or offensive.
To our surprise, cross-cultural experience has helped us to know Jesus in a new dimension, and to understand ourselves in light of that same reality.
The apostle Paul had a similar experience as he struggled to understand Jesus the Messiah and how to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. He spent years studying and meditating. He even had special revelations from the Lord. Eventually, Paul came to know Jesus not merely as the Jewish Messiah, but as the Lord of all creation for all eternity. This new understanding completely changed how he thought about himself.
For Paul, a deeper knowledge of Jesus led him toward deep personal change. We see this in Philippians 3. In this passage, Paul describes his religious and cultural heritage, those things that had previously shaped him. He had once taken pride in these things. But in verse 8 he says, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
Yes, the Lord designed each of us with a certain cultural heritage. But relating to people unlike ourselves has changed us. It has deepened our knowledge and experience of Jesus. And it continues to expand our understanding of the Gospel.
Even if you never live overseas in a cross-cultural situation, God will probably give you opportunities to know Him better by getting to know and love people who are very different than you. Are you willing to die to yourself and follow Him there?