Think about the last time you felt like a true outsider. It could have been when you were in another town or country, or even just around unfamiliar people. Think about how you typically handle those situations. Do you sit quietly and observe how people behave? Do you find a local and start asking them questions about the best places to eat? Do you pick up a brochure? Do you hide in your hotel room, praying the trip goes quickly so you can get back home?
Culture is such a wonderful and challenging phenomenon; it can be at once undetectable to those who are in it and louder than a clanging gong for those outside of it. It is the attitudes, customs, and behaviors of a particular nation or social group. Our culture says a lot about what (and who) we collectively value, and how we express those values (whether intentionally or subconsciously). I think how we engage with an unfamiliar culture reveals something very true of us. Of course, there is no denying that we all prefer to be comfortable in our own cultural context. But how we respond to cultural discomfort is an interesting thing to ponder.
As a Christ follower, when culture and faith collide, what do you do? Do you seek the Lord in prayer or open your Bible for clarity? Do you engage in meaningful dialogue with others, or do you ball up inside, or lash out even? Also, consider the typical source of your own discomfort—does it come more so from something culture is saying, or something the Bible is saying? These kinds of questions can help us examine our hearts when discomfort arises.
How well we do this as a Church, I think, determines whether the Church can be an effective triage center for the culturally abused and disenfranchised. We always need to first ask the Holy Spirit to help us examine our own hearts so that our faith in Christ can be an agent of the gospel in wider culture.
Ask the Lord to help you examine your heart over the next few minutes. What do you think your cultural values are? How do they inform your daily life? How do these norms cause you to approach the Bible, or issues of sin, or conflict? Take some time to journal your thoughts.