“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:4–5)
Heaven and earth are not the same. One is light and the other dark. The gospel of Jesus Christ contains a culture that is in contrast to the world of sin. Preach it and light shines into the darkness. One world invades another. All evangelism a cross-cultural event. It is a culture of light reaching into a culture of darkness.
I happen to live in Asia. It is where the Lord has called me to be. My love for the people, the quilt-work of cultures, languages and relationships is a wonderful adventure to me. After years of sowing my life into Singapore (where I reside), Indonesia and other countries in the region, I finally hear my Asian friends claim me as one of their own. My Chinese friends claim that if my skin is scratched I turn yellow. Bahasa Indonesian friends say I turn brown! Either way, this brings me honor like nothing else. For a foreigner, it is a wondrous miracle to be able to relate is a culture that is not my “native;” American environment. But to transition successfully requires great personal adjustment.
Cross-cultural communication does not happen automatically. Awareness and humility are the greatest assets. In a different culture, thinking is different. Humor is different. Male and female relationships are different. The idea and context of family dynamics can be different. Business and financial practices can operate differently. Raising children and caring for family is different. Education and the value of certain jobs is different in its context. Standard of living and housing is different. And toilets are extremely different! … Speaking clearly through differences has to be done passionately, with love and great intention. Without love, being different just makes you plain weird!
Jesus came from heaven to earth with love. “He knew what was in man,” and was able to adapt and relate to humanity as a human, but His arrival is not the same as cross-cultural experience. He did not come seeking an experience. He came to bring an experience! His goal was not to adapt to a different environment. His mission was to adopt humanity to Himself. There is a big difference! Adaptation changes a person. Adoption happens when someone intentionally shoulders the responsibility of helping others who cannot help themselves or change their situation.
“Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand,” Jesus declared. (Matthew 4:17) In other words, “adapt; change because I have something better, and you can have it now!” This is the good news of hope the gospel brings. “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14) Our goal is not to boast about the places we have gone or the strange food we have eaten on a “short-term mission-trip.” No. Instead, we have a “life-term mission” to introduce the kingdom of God and salvation in Christ. Just as Jesus carried the eternal culture of heaven into this world, we must take up the responsibility of doing the same.