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Different Isn't Bad

Different Doesn’t Mean Wrong

One of the biggest obstacles to effective mission, and ministry, is discerning and differentiating your culture and God’s Word.

This sentence is foreign to any one who has not faced the challenge. This is because when you are in your culture, there are no challenges to what your culture teaches is the Bible. It is like this.

The Bible gives us a standard of right and wrong behavior. If you do what the Bible says ought to be done, it is good. If you do not, or you do what ought NOT to be done, it is bad.

Our culture also gives us a standard or right and wrong behavior. If you follow cultural norms, it is good. If you do not, it is bad.

Now, move to another culture and they do not follow our norms. So, they must be bad. They need to change.

Do they?

Let me give you an example. I am almost 60. For the past 15 years, I have to use magnifiers to read and write. I wear glasses. I use these to see. I look through them at the world around me. Reread that last sentence. I look through them at the world around me.

I look through them.

I do not look at them.

I use them to view and therefore understand life. I rarely evaluate them.

My wife bought me a great pair of high level UV sunglasses. I never spend money on sunglasses or readers because I break and lose them with regularity. She decided to get me a real pair that was not from the dollar store. I love them.

Here is the thing. When I wear them, everything I see is tinted blue. They are strong. If you held up a white piece of paper, I would say it was in reality a light blue sheet. Everything, literally everything, is blue-ish.

Now, what would happen if I did not know I had on the glasses? What if they were placed on my face when I was born and all my life wore them and looked through them? What would happen if I assumed the way I see things is, in reality, the way they are? School notebook paper is light blue. It doesn’t ‘look’ light blue. I don’t ‘see’ it as light blue. It is light blue. If I forgot I wore glasses, then I would think God created an entire world on the blue spectrum. God’s favorite color is blue. God, Himself, might be a shade of blue. Why else create and put blue into everything? God loves blue. God is blue.

Then, one day I bump my head and my glasses fall off. I reach down to pick them up and realize the air is not light blue. It is transparent. The gravel I stand on is not blue-ish in color. It is white and tan. My tennis shoes are gray. I thought they were blue.

I look all around. For the first time, I look at my glasses and not through them. I see I was wrong when I argued and cut off fellowship with you over the color of the notebook paper.

Those long rants on social media about the Blueness of God now do not make sense.

God probably isn’t blue and his favorite color is the spectrum.

Blue is not the most noble of the colors.

I thought it was because I had on blue glasses.

The world wasn’t blue.

My world was blue.

That is not the same thing.

This is missiology. It is doing your best to look at the culture around you WITHOUT your culture-lens interpreting it.

Go back to different does not mean wrong.

If we are not careful, we evaluate other cultures by using our culture as the standard. Then, without meaning to, we think the way they do things is ‘wrong’. We feel like we should change cultural issues, not because it is sin, but because we feel like it is wrong so it must be.

Are they ‘wrong’ in how they do not follow our traffic laws to drive?

Are they ‘wrong’ because their way of doing things is not efficient?

Are they ‘wrong’ when they make children eat after the adults?

Are they ‘wrong’ by working 6 hours a day instead of 10?

Are they ‘wrong’ because every institution has long lines and wait times?

Are they ‘wrong’ because men and women do not wear the same type of clothing?

These are cultural norms and values. They are not Biblical. They are different, not wrong.

Missiology is learning to differentiate between culture and Scripture.

It is seeking to change the parts of culture either mandated in Scripture or proven to be wise, yet accepting and adapting to culture simply different than the missionary’s home. The challenge for a missionary is to make sure we don’t think ‘our way’ is better and ‘their way’ is worse.

Different does not mean wrong.

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