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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why Missionaries Struggle with Grace

As we returned, Travis called a great prayer meeting for all of us to just touch base, catch up, hear what God had been doing in our hearts.  And several people mentioned either significant struggles with identity/God's love issues, or significant lightning-moment apprehensions of God's grace.  It is, of course, what WHM talks about a lot.  And the heart of the way the reformation presents the Gospel.  So it's no surprise that we also seek to grasp the reality of God's unconditional approving love.

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.

1 comment:

The 27th Comrade said...

What can one say, when one finds a blog of missionaries who understand that Grace is the point?
It seemed to me that Grace was the only thing that Christianity gave that cannot come from elsewhere, yet it was not the one thing Christians talked about all the time.
I think there has been a serious rape of Galatians among Christians, by ignoring the point the epistle makes.

(Imagine, also, I have been an incumbent pest on Ugandan weblogs since 2006, but only now do I properly realise this weblog. Shame upon me. I assume this is covered by the No-Condemnation, as well? :o) Great to locate this blog; even though I do not really consider myself a Christian.)