The Cross and Culture

Webster Dictionary defines culture as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.” Culture is, in the words of E.B. Tylor, “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” When dealing with a culture we must first understand that it has no boundaries. Cultures continue to transcend time and geographical border. So what part does the gospel play when it comes to cultures?

Just like culture, the gospel of the good news of Jesus knows no boundaries. Even in Acts 10:11 through a vision, God helped the Apostle Peter break down the boundaries of who was deserving of the Gospel. Peter had to be taught that salvation was for everyone. To cross the lines of the Jewish and Gentile relationship was very uncommon for Peters day and age. This display of transcending cultural boundaries would get a very Jewish Peter into confrontations with both friend and foe. Galatians 3:28 states that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So how far should Peter have to go when crossing cultures? This age-old question has plagued the church and even sometimes crippled it to a point of taking no action for fear of offending others. As a believer we are called to deliver the good news, but where is the line, if there is one, when it comes to the cross and culture? Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The first thing is that we can’t be conformed to this world, and that we are to resist it. So, does that mean we resist everything that is in the world? Of course not. We are to test everything that comes to us, so we may discern what is the will of God. When dealing with things of culture, each situation that comes at us must be tested and must past the test of what is good, acceptable, and perfect. All to often we try to place our way of church on a people group as the only way a believer conducts himself. As if our way is the Gospel way. Just like culture has no boundaries, neither does the Gospel. We can no longer afford to package Jesus into a little box and try to mass produce it in our style. We were never called to conform Jesus to our ways, but we are called to be more Christ like every day. Leonard Tyler from Truth Magazine states that “The purpose of gospel preaching is to save the soul of man. The commission demands this purpose. Preaching the gospel for any other reason is outside its design.” If crossing the cultural boundary by wearing a Hijab shows respect to a culture I am trying to reach, so be it. My faith is not in the headgear that I wear, nor in the work that I can do. But it is in the God that I serve, and His ability to use me to reach the people that he loves.  

How is your church reaching out to your Judea, Jerusalem, Samaria and the uttermost? Does your church have a mission culture? If you need help in these areas, we would love to help you. Please contact us at [email protected].

Steve Gant

Here2There volunteer

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