“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.
~ Paul of Tarsus (msg translation)
Lets read this in a more literal translation from the ancient Greek (of which i earned a 98% in a masters level course because I is so smart)
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
The cultural sensitivity we see taught within Christianity is astounding (though often not practiced – especially lost when aligned with state, political and colonization).
Jesus is not seeking to export certain dresscodes, ceremonies, or ancient cultural practices on new cultures (though many in the pew are not aware of this it seems). The gospel and the Church (universal) can enter, very fluidly, into any culture, even our own.
Yet, the Gospel is not completely at home in any one culture or with any one people. It stands outside all, calls for all people to consider, to examine themselves.
It amazes me, even in very “exotic” places, how few customs and traditions require change. Often asigning new meaning to certain aspects is enough. The festival looks the same on the outside…. but has a new heart.
Despite the tragic fact many christians workers went and made western clone churches wherever they went because they became products of emire….. colonialism.
Anthropologists tell me that most cultures can keep 90-95% of their ancient customs when they become christians. That changed practice might be required in 5-10% of cultures. The worst case they studied was 15%.
This means we can be any ethnic, cultural or racial background inaginable on this earth, and we can still remain very much who we are as we believe Jesus.
Christians do not need to be western clones.
And this is a very, very good thing.