The Gist of It

20Oct11

Since Monday, I’ve been learning a lot about assumptions and how not to make a King James donkey out of myself when I get overseas. :-)  That is, of course, what these three weeks are about – my culture, their culture, and how I integrate the two for God’s glory.  So part of today included this wonderful, thought-provoking adaptation of a very familiar passage of Scripture…

If I speak with the tongue of a national, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.

If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor, and if I spend my energy without reserve, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love endures long hours of language study and is kind to those who mock his accent; love does not envy those who stayed home; love does not exalt his home culture; love is not proud of his national reputation.

Love does not boast about the way we do it back home, does not seek his own way, is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of his home country, does not think evil about this culture.

Love bears all criticism about his home culture, believes all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, and endures all inconveniences.

Love never fails.  But where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualization, it will cease; where there is linguistic study, it will vanish.

For we know only part of the culture and we minister to only part.

But when Christ is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.

When I was in America, I spoke as an American, I understood as an American, I thought as an American; but when I left America, I became a learner of a new culture!

Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly; but He will live in it intimately; now I speak with a strange accent, but He will speak to the heart.

And now these three remain: cultural adaptation, language study, and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

(I Corinthians 13, Cultural-Adaptation Style)

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