Friday, April 17, 2009

The Power of Culture

Every missionary is familiar with the term "culture shock". Culture shock is the sudden, shocking realization that one is now living in an environment that one cannot change. One must adapt or try to live in cultural enclave of made up of others who refuse to adapt. Ethnic neighborhoods in major cities are efforts to avoid culture shock and maintain what one finds most comfortable.

I was born and raised in Miami in the 1950's. Miami in the 1950's was a quiet southern city. In the early 1960's the Cuban exodus from Cuba to Miami began and so did the the exodus out of Miami of many southern Americans like my parents who refused to adapt to the changing culture in order to stay in the downtown Miami area. Many Cubans also refused to adapt to their new American home and they created "Little Havana" which now shares space with "Little Haiti". No one likes culture shock and many avoid it all costs.

Culture shock is no fun if one prefers one culture above another. We almost always prefer the culture of our childhood and youth to any new culture. Once we get used to a culture we would rather not see it change.

The entire world is experiencing a kind of culture shock and resistant groups are busily building ethnic, religious and social enclaves to protect themselves from the cultural changes. Radical Islam's insistence on isolation and control is a case in point.

From my experience as a child growing up in Miami and as a missionary, I believe the answer to culture shock lies in building an inner life that is fully rooted in the culture of God's kingdom. There is little hope of preserving the culture of one's earthly childhood in today's rapidly changing world. There is hope of preserving the inner culture of one's new birth in Jesus.

Jesus was in the world but not of the world. He was here to love but he was not here to join any ethnic or religious group in their special enclave. He was invited to join, but he refused.

Jesus was here to invite the world to join the eternal culture he describes in His teaching as the Kingdom of God. Have you joined Jesus' Kingdom of God culture?

If not, I predict you are going to experience culture shock on a global scale in the coming years. Moving away from this coming culture shock like my parents did will not be possible in the coming years. Jesus' offer of a new birth and kingdom culture is still the very best option because they equip us for living anywhere and living well.

When Jesus said he had overcome the world, He meant it. Be at peace in your inner world with Him and you will find the ability to love in any culture.

No comments: