Everyone yearns. We have a deep longing for unity and there is something inside us that drives us to spend time together—to be with other people, to be social, is a basic human need. We want to feel satisfied and meaningful, to belong and be important to others. This desire is deeply rooted in our nature as people; from it culture grows.
Culture is a complex whole that guides and defines us as members of a society. It is the way we behave and understand the world. It includes our customs, laws, practices, beliefs, morals and ethics; it shapes our worldview.
Every culture, not to mention sub-culture, has an alternate slant on what is important, valuable, good, right or beautiful. Each one prioritises 'this' and not 'that'; one calls something bad or taboo while another sees it as not worth attention, permissible or perhaps even desirable. Various patterns of behaviours, thoughts, attitudes and opinions, often opposing, exist side-by-side.
How do we find true Truth in the midst of such a baffling conglomeration of ideas, values and actions? How can we know what is right and what is wrong? And how can we live rightly amidst cross-cultural contact?
Searching for Truth
We find the Truth, even in our age of globalisation and pluralism, by hearing the Word of the Lord. The One who made us (and all our cultural capacities) has spoken in the Bible.
The Bible is not just another dusty tome. It is not an error-ridden artifice but a historical artefact made alive by the living God. It contains genealogies, histories, poetry, proverbs, letters, apocalyptic literature and best of all it tells of the Gospel—the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Its teachings are not dark and muddy but clear to understand for all with the heart to. They show us explicitly and implicitly what is right and what is wrong and are a record of God's revealed will.
Foundation of Truth
The Bible describes accurately, more than any other book, the condition of humanity. It explains why there is evil, incompleteness and conflict now (we have fallen short of the glory of God and rebel in sin against His rule) and the punishment we are due because of this sin.
The Bible also explains the great hope that there is in Jesus Christ. God came to earth as Jesus, a man just like us yet fully Divine, to live perfectly, obey completely, die horrifically—in our place—and rise again to life so that we might live in Him when we repent and believe.
Its message transcends time and culture. The Good News is a message for all people everywhere. Jesus Himself instructed His disciples to bear witness in all the world, even the remotest parts. Revelation provides a wonderful picture of multitudes beyond counting from every tribe and tongue gathered before the throne and the Lamb.
A foundation in this Truth, in Christ, is the only one that can give us something true to stand on when the world is confused by a multiplicity of culturally right and wrong ways.
Navigating with Truth
With Truth we can begin to understand how to navigate dissimilar cultures. As with many things this is more easily said than done. The Bible contains knowledge of God and therefore "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter chapter 1, verse 3) but it doesn't say whether using chopsticks or a knife and fork is better.
Nothing in the Old or New Testaments will specifically condemn or confirm wearing a sari as opposed to t-shirt and jeans, for example, but we must learn to weigh up cultural practices and beliefs. We can do this by developing a Biblical framework to think and act from.
Through such renewal and renovation of our minds we will begin to understand what is good and right. We will learn to know God's will (or commands) for the big things and the little things of life.
Our multi-cultural, globalised world illustrates how every person yearns to belong, to be loved and significant. Every culture expresses this need in a different way and so we live in a world that abounds in cultural differences. We cannot escape internationality even if we want to. Ours is an age of inter-cultural communication.
Such a world calls us to live active lives filled with the Word of God. This will help us to learn to walk in the way of true Truth so that we can accurately and lovingly navigate cultural dissimilarities. Then we won't be swayed by false thinking or offended by innocuous things but will be able to glorify God in the midst of broken and conflicting cultures.
Irenie How is young yet but by the grace of God was saved while she was running away from and fighting against Him. God showed her that He is the Lord and she wants you to know this too. After becoming a Christian she finished studying to become a graphic designer and as this she currently works full-time in Christchurch, New Zealand
Irenie How's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/irenie-how.html