10. Cultural blessing (a)
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7-8
What is culture
I am so excited today I get to start my final section of this blessing counting journey which I started last October in 2015. If I had to choose one area I am most passionate about, this is it! Cambridge English Dictionary defines “Culture” as “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”. In other words, it is practising what we believe in our daily living. This “particular group of people” and “time” vary in our lifetime. My life has been enriched tremendously as we often adjust from one culture to the other. However, without some overachieving life principles, I often experienced anxiety, distress, fear or other negative feelings when the initial excitement from the new culture fades. That was when the 3rd Culture Living mindset occurred to us.
When cultures clash, by default we tend to resort to where our flesh feels most comfortable and natural. We redefine our terms of “culture” as life unfolds, as different cultures come our way through different groups of people. Our beliefs are questioned or shaken during those clashes. A lot of times, we choose to walk away from those differences to avoid conflicts. People naturally connect with others who are like them. Then a “culture” forms. This explains why even in an immigrant country like America, we can easily locate areas for different ethnic groups, China town, Ukrainian village, German street, Little Italy, etc.. This also explains why, as inclusive or open as social media claims to be, people still flock into their own particular groups. We are made to have connections with each other. Life is to be shared. Sharing is good!
However, there are other times we can’t simply walk away from those people who hold very different views from us. Or we might find the closer we walk with another human being, the more differences we discover about each other. After all, we are all uniquely made by the Creator. Who decides which “particular group” or which “particular time” is more sacred than the other? If I am not sure about the source of culture authority, it is easy and reasonable to switch from one culture to the other when optimal opportunities arise. We can either choose to die to our old selves or numb our souls to not really believe anything wholeheartedly (which is a way of worldview for many people, myself having been one of them). We end up doing whatever is convenient and easy for the moment instead of seeking the truth. Our souls are unfortunately becoming more and more insensitive during the process.
Is there a better way to embrace the differences of cultures but maintain a clear conscience of the soul? The good news is dying to our old selves doesn’t have to mean emptiness. Instead, we gain a new self, a new identity, a secure life and so much more, as long as we are connected to the true Culture determiner for the eternal Kingdom! We are encouraged to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,” and put whatever we have learned or received or heard from the Truth or the Spirit or His servants into practice (Philippians 4:8-9).
Jesus came to serve and He sacrificed the greatest convenience to become like one of us, so we can enter His Kingdom for His glory! He made Himself the bridge between Heaven and Earth. Through Him, we all have access to the eternal glorious Kingdom! Our new identity in Him calls us to be servant-minded like Jesus. As we set ourselves up as servants for Him, we are free to gain or lose our earthly cultures. O Lord, “remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness” (Psalm 25:7). Lord, help me live out my faith in you as your servant today and everyday!