But it strikes me that one reason it is so hard, is that it is the opposite of being cross-culturally sensitive. A good missionary is supposed to be alert to WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK. What is culturally appropriate? If I don't attend this burial will I send the wrong message? If I wear those jeans will I cause others to stumble? Should I let these kids do what they want, or reprimand them for their behaviour? Is it OK to hurt someone else's feelings for my kids' sake? So on one hand we have a whole way of life built around the mantra that we should enter into a culture by understanding it, thinking through the unspoken rules, adapting our thoughts and actions to those of our hosts.
Then on the other hand we have the reality of grace: nothing we do makes us more or less loved by God. We are not measured by what other people think of us. We have freedom.
It's no wonder that cross-cultural living is probably the hardest place to hold a balance on this tension of self-censure for cultural appropriateness vs. basking in the unmerited approval of God. I'm sure that this is yet another paradox that in the end does not need to be one, that living in the light of grace lets us willingly adapt to any culture. But in practice, it's a tricky paradox to navigate.