As an organization we spend a lot of time abroad. The beauty of spending that time abroad, immersing ourselves in a new culture, we are able to see differently and pick a part what is culture, tribal, community-based and what is divinely in us all; what makes us the same, what makes us different and why.
The truth is that we as a western culture leave to go over the ocean in hopes of bringing a new concept of “doing church” and I wonder if we realize what part of our desire is rooted in our cultural foundation rather than our Biblical foundation. This is a question I ask myself a lot. What things do I think that others “need” or “should do,” and is that because I was raised that way, grew up in a culture that valued that, or is that because it is what Christ values, what he teaches, what he commands?
In America we can easily become exclusive. The sad truth is that to the traveler, the outsider who enters our churches, our homes, our circle of friends, I fear may often see countries clubs, a kingdom with hierarchy, or find false hope in a lot of idols instead of walking away with the life and breath and depth of love Jesus has for them. We don’t always have a "come as you are" mentality, and as I travel I realize more and more the stark reality that what makes us “christian” often changes depending on which community we go to, what has defined our value system and ultimately what we ourselves individually value. I do it, I see it, I am convicted of it. I am strongly convicted when I cling to something, when I begin to shift in what defines me and my faith. I have to reason, to ask, to dig, is this so important to me because this is important to God or is God even pleased with this at all?
What if, instead, we peel back the layers and begin to ask ourselves the questions we are so ready to pose to cultures different than our own. It is easy for us to walk into a new culture, new group of people, or new community (for us it can be new country or a new rural village) and easily identify the differences in “the culture” as the foundation rather than “God’s culture” as their foundation. It is easy to say that monogamy is desired over polygamy in the church. It is easy to say that God doesn’t need us to bring literal burnt offerings or sacrificial lambs for our lives to be made right with Christ. My question would be, do we understand the "stuff," the people, the life-choices, the behaviors that define us, and are we just as far from the foundation that Christ laid for us on the cross and the Biblical foundation that frees us that we can see in others?
The beauty of pouring our lives out to others is that it refines us more deeply than we could ever be used to refine them. God is passionate about this. We must be ready to ask hard questions and face the reality of hard answers. What things in our lives are keeping us from the call, to go out and reach others in the name of Jesus, what things are keeping us from being free? What people around us confuse us, frustrate us, challenge and refine us? Why? Why are we more tempted to dismiss them than love them, because it just isn’t comfortable? Often these are the very people God is allowing in our lives to show us more of himself, more of his character, more of his world view. What experiences and people is God using to refine you and challenge your culture, your community and the reality around you?
I love Romans 12 because it is so clear.
"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. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment." Romans 12:2-3
Sober Judgement. With sober judgement, write down a list of 3 things that have been a theme in your life lately. Stop and pray. Ask God to show you in His word what he thinks about these things and see if these are the very pieces of sand in the oyster shell that God is allowing to deeply refine your thoughts and your ways to be more aligned to Him.
Father we thank you, we thank you that we don’t have to pay our way back to you, our thoughts are not your thoughts and our ways are not your ways. Thank you Lord Jesus you did die on the cross for us and that death was conquered once and for all. Lord please reveal the things in our lives we have allowed to define us, what we think about you, what we think about ourselves and ultimately what we think about others. We love you Lord and we thank you for deep revelation that leads to deep life change.