The Challenges of Cross-Cultural Living
Originally posted at: https://anglicanfrontiers.com/the-challenges-of-cross-cultural-living/
Living cross-culturally, it’s fascinating to compare the strengths and weaknesses of our host culture and culture of origin. One thing that quickly becomes clear is that all cultures are broken and in need of redemption in different ways. The reality of sin means that no culture is exempt from this. In West Asia, where we live, we see beautiful things about our host culture that reflect God’s heart. These help us to see more clearly weaknesses of our own culture and ways that it needs the transformation of the Gospel.
We also see ways that our host culture deeply needs this transformation. For example, navigating conflicts is very difficult in this context. The culture teaches you to stand your ground and never admit fault. People hold grudges that last for years, often leading to broken relationships and deep bitterness. In fact, in the local language, there are words that essentially mean to pardon and overlook an offense, but there is no word that truly reflects the Christian understanding of forgiveness and healing.
But in addition to seeing this brokenness, we get to see how the Gospel brings true change. We see that through the power of Christ’s love, forgiveness and reconciliation are possible in any culture. It has been a great joy to see this at work in the hearts of first generation Muslim-background believers in our community.
A friend of mine recently came to me and confessed that he had been holding a grudge against me for eight months. Apparently, I flippantly and unknowingly said something that offended him; because I’m a leader in our community, he didn’t want to dishonor me, and so he hesitated to tell me. But every time we interacted, he held a bitterness towards me in his heart. One day he was reading Matthew 18 and realized that if the Gospel was true, he couldn’t let his relationship with me continue like this. As soon as he had the courage to pursue me and speak honestly, I was able to ask his forgiveness for the things I said, and we were reconciled. As a product of his culture, it was only through the power of the Gospel that he was able to have this conversation. It was a wonderful encouragement to us that God is at work.
Non-Christians in the culture also can’t help but notice that things are different when the Gospel is involved. For example, a few years ago there was a couple that was dating in our community. Unfortunately, after three years, the relationship ended in a messy breakup. Now, under any circumstances, a breakup is an awkward thing in a congregation. But in West Asia, the norm would be for this situation to cause the two individuals never to speak to each other again. This situation was different – both believers were able to forgive each other and continue worshipping and fellowshipping together. I’ve witnessed the utter disbelief of friends of the former couple that such a thing is possible. This was followed by them bearing witness to the love and forgiveness of God, the power behind it all.
The Gospel changes everything. Sometimes the progress is slower than we’d like. But when we get to witness the light breaking through, it’s wonderfully motivating to be faithful in the calling God has given us in this place. We can be honest about sin and brokenness, because there’s always hope for new life. What a joy to serve a God whose love and redemption extends beyond culture and tradition!
by Derrick, an AFM CCW in Asia