A MINISTRY OF ENTRUST
I just checked. I have been to 74 countries. (My time in the Navy helped a bit). Having been to so many places, I should understand people from different cultures. But I’ve discovered that’s not exactly true.
My wife majored in Christian Education. One of their teaching tools was a saying: Boy, Book, Boy. According to that saying, you need to find out who the Boy is, then take him to the Book, then send the Boy to live out what that Book says.
So, first we need to discover, who is the Boy (or Girl)? What is their family like, their education, their mental, physical, social, emotional, spiritual background? That is tough enough to discover within a culture you grew up in. It is very, very difficult to do in a culture halfway around the world and quite different from your own. But you have to know who the Boy or Girl is before you can take them to the Book. How do you do that?
I went to a seminar on intercultural intelligence to help me gain the ability to create new cultural spaces that facilitate win-win solutions by anticipating, correctly interpreting, and adjusting to the culturally defined behaviors of others. I took a little test on my intercultural intelligence. I’ve been to 74 countries. I should have done well. Let’s just say that test showed me I have a lot to learn about effective intercultural communication.
Many experts in this area talk about three general worldviews: Guilt/Innocence, Honor/Shame, Power/Fear. These are lenses through which people view the world. These lenses get at the beliefs and assumptions underlying behavior; for example, a belief that being seen as honorable is more important than being seen as right. Or that maintaining positional power is more important than being shamed.
I think Gen. 3:6-13 describes where this all came from. Before the fall, there was total innocence. Adam and Eve didn’t know or experience good and evil. They were naked and knew no shame. The voice of God was tied with the power of God and he drew near. There was no fear.
After the fall, shame kicked in and they realized they were naked. God called out and they hid. God’s powerful voice now brought fear, followed by guilt. “What have you done?”
Then God did something wonderful. In Jesus, God came near to us and he accepted even those who were full of shame. He won victories not by creating fear with overwhelming power, riding on a warhorse, but riding on a donkey as a humble servant of God. We were guilty and Jesus was innocent, and he took the punishment for our guilt.
The victory over what Satan had caused in Genesis 3 was won on the cross. We are called to be part of working out that victory by learning how to break through worldviews and cultures. One glorious day, we will enjoy our varied cultures without divisions or misunderstandings. Our redeemed cultural differences will enrich the new heaven and earth.
I was humbled when I realized how little I understood about communicating with those of different backgrounds and cultures. Being humbled like that was not a bad thing. It challenged me to take more effort to understand, to seek to see through the Boy’s lens, to really know the Boy and the Girl to whom God calls me to bring his Book.
That possibility encourages me. I hope it encourages you.
Roger GulickPastoral Care, Entrust
This article appears in the summer 2018 edition of Engage.