When I first met Christ, I gave him my life. Over the years, I learned how to live as a Christ follower. Some of the things I learned were genuinely Biblical in origin. Others were reflections of my culture and faith community. Sometimes, it’s been hard to distinguish between the two.
In Afghanistan, my Muslim neighbors constantly asked me about America, my country and Jesus, the leader of my religion.
In the face of their questions, I learned to distinguish between my culturally defined interpretations of Christianity and the truth articulated in Scripture.
I learned, for example, that my enjoyment of hymns and praise and worship songs was more a culturally formed expression of faith than one mandated by Scripture. I learned that the centrality of teaching in our faith community gatherings, our format of placing one person in the front and all the others who listen quietly for 40 minutes was more a reflection of our Reformation history that a Biblically required structure. I learned that our practice of discursive prayers carefully articulated by one individual at a time belonged more to our Wednesday night prayer gatherings than the upper room on the day of Pentecost.
I learned many other things, as well. For example, I learned that our approach to marriage and our expectations of relationships between men and women was a modern construct. I learned that my freedom to cut my hair, own property and travel alone reflected the affluence and education of my society.
All of these things belong to our American culture. We can argue about whether or not Scripture allow them, but we cannot claim them as mandated.
Still, we’re not only free, but encouraged to be our own culture. In the fullness of who we are, we express the glory of God, albeit, imperfectly. We are one of the many voices that worship before his throne.
Afghans are another voice. God’s desire isn’t to make them into Americans, but to redeem Afghans; to redeem their economy, education, families, religion and more. God’s desire is to bring them into freedom and wholeness in him.
Our part is not to condemn Afghan culture or to mock Afghan tradition, but rather to express the love and truth of God in the context of who we are.
Can you see the difference?