Easter and Cultural Intelligence

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

The call to one another on Easter (or Resurrection Day as some of us like to say) is as ancient as the Christian religion.

Our tendency to be against one another is more ancient, since Cain and Abel.

And yet, there’s hope. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

It is because of Christ’s resurrection that we are who we are: followers of Christ. That includes being willing to learn to be culturally intelligent, to care for the people who are different from us, whether different in ethnicity, nationality, religious affiliation or none, generation or gender.

It is because of the resurrection we have the power to rise above our own selfish focus, our tendency to think our culture, our lifestyle, our language, our choices, our opinions as better than another.

Some points to remind us of events after the resurrection:

  • Matthew 28:19 – Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL nations,”
  • Acts 1:8 – Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
  • Jerusalem: In Acts 2, at the time when the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples, there were Jews from “every nation under heaven.” (vs 5) The disciples started speaking in several languages, such that people heard “each in his own native language.” (vs 8) There was not an endorsement of just one language.
  • Samaria: Acts 8:14-17, we see Jews and “despised” Samaritans praying together.
  • End of the earth: In Acts 10:9-35, we hear the struggle Peter faced when told by God to minister to those people, the Gentiles.

The Gospel was spreading as the apostles were obedient to cross cultures with the good news.refugee-1532326_1280

Because of the resurrection,

We are called as Christians to a new unity not based on our tribal allegiances. In Christ “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free.” Instead there are those putting on “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” toward one another regardless of their cultural origins. (Colossians 3:11-14) In Christ, who is the “image of the invisible God,” we are called back to being God’s image, a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue in whom the Creator can be glimpsed.[1]

Though “we are fallen humans,” because of the resurrection we are “dying to self and being raised with Christ as we share God’s grace with others who share our condition.”[2]

  • Romans 10:12 – For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.”
  • Galatians 3:28 – “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.”
  • Galatians 5:6 – “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
  • Ephesians 3:6 – “This mystery is that the Gentiles [or any “other”] are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” [my addition]

 “Cultural intelligence is more than just a politically correct agenda for diversity and multiculturalism. Jesus’ life and death are what made it possible for us to seriously consider moving beyond the desire to love the Other and actually doing it.”[3]

He is risen!

He is risen, indeed!cross-2713356_1280

 

 

 

[1] Smith, D.I. & Dykstra-Pruim, P. (2016). Christians and Cultural Difference. Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College Press.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Livermore, D.A. (2009). Cultural Intelligence: Improving your CQ to engage our multicultural world. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences, A Christian Perspective, Part Two

In my previous blog, I referred to the old phrase: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.[1]” We talked about what are the essentials for Christians, as well as what the non-essentials might be.

And then I mentioned “Charity.” What is Charity? To review, charity is the old term for love. Here is where we get the command to love one another as he has loved us. It does not say love one another if they agree with you. Or if they look like you. Or if they have the same religion!children-2857263_1280 corrected

As Christians, we are called to love one another, but also to love our neighbor. Sometimes it is clear we are to love fellow believers. But Jesus made it clear in his parable that we often call the “Good Samaritan,” that we are to love others, even if they are different from us.

 If you look carefully at this story found in Luke 10:25-37, there are some points to note:

  • The scribe asking the questions assumed two things:
    • That being a part of the “kingdom of God” meant being Jewish (both ethnically and in obedience to the Law);
    • That loving our neighbor meant loving our fellow people of God.
  • Jesus did not tell where the stranger was from.
  • The “good guys” (the priest and the Levite) didn’t do the right thing.
  • The “bad guy” did. Why was he the “bad” guy to the “expert in the Law” asking the question? He was a (gasp) despised
  • Jesus asks, “who is the neighbor?” but doesn’t give the guy who got beat up as one of the options. Jesus calls us to BE a good neighbor. And he calls us to do this across good-samaritan-1037334_1280cultures, to reach out to those who are different from us.[2]

We must look around us. To whom should we be a neighbor? We must look within ourselves and ask, who are we called to be a neighbor to but we find it a challenge? We don’t want to be a neighbor to that person! Who is that? Prayerfully ask God to show you.

 That does not mean we have to agree. There is a lot of diversity in this world. A lot. I do not agree with my husband sometimes. (Another gasp!) But I still choose to love him. We all can learn to agree to disagree. (See my blog on agreeing to disagree and a Christian perspective on dealing with differences, part one)

Now, as Christians, where is the line for agreeing to disagree? Go back to the question of essentials. Look for areas of agreement, recognize those things in which we agree, and prayerfully discern what are not essentials that we can chose to disagree and let go of the argument.

That is how we agree to disagree and still respect and love one another with dignity.

 

 [1] Ross, Mark. “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius.” For more information, see this site.

[2] For more explanation of this parable, see David I. Smith’s Learning from the Stranger: Christian faith and cultural diversity. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences, A Christian Perspective, Part One

For those of us who are followers of Christ, our unity is in Christ. Full stop. Perhaps you have heard this old phrase: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.[1]

  • What are the essentials for a Christian? A belief in Jesus Christ as our personal savior – faith alone; a belief and trust in the Holy Bible as our one source of Truth – Scripture alone. That’s it! Here is where we have our unity.bible-1031288_1280
  • What are the non-essentials? Things such as baptism, political parties, gun control, role of women in the church, etc. Here we can allow liberty and difference of opinion. If we are using the Scriptures as our basis for discussion, we will often come up with different interpretations and opinions. We must allow for those differences of opinions.
  • What is Charity? Charity is the old term for love. Here is where we get the command to love one another as he has loved us. It does not say love one another if they agree with you. Or if they look like you. Or if they have the same religion!

So, how do we do this? First, we can know there is Truth. True objective absolute truth. In our culture, that idea is not popular. However, we can and should encourage and remind one another that there IS Truth. How do we know that? We have the Bible that tells us of a God that is beyond our earthly knowledge, that is transcendent and other-worldly. HE has established Truth. It is not dependent on our experiences, emotions, “facts,” nor culture. Those all can change. But God. Does. Not. Change! There is Truth and we can know it.

However, and this is the BIG however. We are fallen people. None of us can perfectly understand Truth or interpret the Bible. We learn things and then later learn we (or the pastor or teacher or ???) were wrong. (Gasp!) The Bible tells us our hearts are “deceitfully wicked.” We want to convince ourselves all the time that we have it right, that we interpret the Bible correctly, that we know God’s mind. And those people don’t!

How absurd! How arrogant!

We must always, always relate to Scripture and the people around us with humility. We might get things wrong. We might interpret something differently than someone else and find out they were right. Or maybe they were wrong, and we were right. When will we find out? In heaven. Perhaps sooner, but maybe not before then.

In relating to the people in our lives with whom we disagree, we must always have a spirit of humility. We must recognize our propensity to get things wrong.

Also, we must always treat one another with respect and dignity. Though I may disagree with you, I still recognize God’s image in you. You are valuable. You are loved. You are human. You are worthy of my respect and dignity and kindness.

We must stop. Stop denigrating someone when they do not agree with us. Stop complaining that they are doing something we do not like.* Stop. Just stop. Do not say anything if it cannot be respectful, full of dignity toward other people. Just stop.

Let yourself be challenged this week to show unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and charity to all.

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*Complaining about something we do not like is not the same as speaking out against evil, such as sexual and/or child abuse.

[1] Ross, Mark. “Often attributed to great theologians such as Augustine, it comes from an otherwise undistinguished German Lutheran theologian of the early seventeenth century, Rupertus Meldenius.” For more information, see this site.

Culturally Intelligent Communities – Dealing with Differences – Agreeing to Disagree

When do we strive for unity? And when do we need to agree to disagree?

Because we are diverse, and because unity is different parts being combined into a unified whole (see the March 9 blog on Unity), we have a choice.

  • Do we just conduct our lives living as separate people, not connecting, not living in community where we care for one another and really communicate?disagree-1099579_1280

Or

  • Do we choose to live in community, striving for a unity in the midst of diverse people?

If we do not choose to live in community, by default, we choose to live as individuals all doing our own thing.

The challenge, however, is that as soon as we choose to be in community, there will be diversity, whether of race, nationality, religion, opinions about politics or gender, and generations.

When I got married, there was a choice to start our family, a new community. Right from the start, two people living together with different opinions. Yes, we were the same race, same religion, same generation. But we were two different people. Different personalities (extrovert vs introvert). Different family upbringing (somewhat peaceful vs sparks flying often). Different birth order (#2 of 4 vs #5 of 5). Different regional backgrounds (suburb vs farm/small town). This impacted how we related to one another. And there were indeed disagreements for things as basic as what time should we arrive at church.argument-238529_1280

If this is just two people, what happens when you add more people? The more people you add to the community, the more likelihood of differences showing up. Diversity is inevitable. Thus, living in community is messy.

In the Bible, there is a verse that says, “Without oxen, the stable stays clean.” (NLT) If you don’t have oxen in your stables, there will be no dung. If you don’t have people, you don’t have the messiness of life. But we can’t live that way, without people.

We must make a choice to live in community, to be with people. And to be with people calls us to aim for unity within the diversity. With the messiness in a diverse group of people comes the need to learn the art of compromise, learning to find a middle ground. But what if we have completely different ideas or opinions on something? We must learn to agree to disagree.

How does one do that?

  • First, remind yourself:
    • that the other person is a fellow human, deserving respect and dignity and kindness, even if they disagree with you!
    • that often people have a lot in common even amid diversity. Ask yourself, what do you have in common with this person? Sometimes people are heading toward the same goal but with different means.
  • Secondly, get some perspective. Realize that unless it is a life and death situation, who wins an argument will not be important 10 years from now. No one will remember.
  • Thirdly, let it go. It won’t help you nor the other person to come out on top. If you are arguing about religion or football teams, trying to change the other person’s opinion will do no good. For them or for you.

Share opinions. Don’t be afraid of discussing differences. But respect one another in the process. And agree in the end to disagree.handshake-4040911_1280