Nearsighted Christians

by Mar 21, 2007

Ben Witherington writes about our myopic faith:

When a Christian places his love for his own ethnic group or national group above and before his love for Christ’s people anywhere and everywhere he or she by definition has violated the very sense and spirit of what Paul was talking about when he said “in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile… but all are one in Christ” (Gal. 3.28). Just so, and we have been fighting the battle of the retribalizing of Christianity ever since. I saw a great cartoon the other day. It showed two Indians carrying a dead turkey on a stick between them and heading for a picnic table where three Puritans were sitting waiting. The first Indian said to the second ” Look I know they have a great work ethic, but their illegal, they should go back where they came from and enter the country legally.”

One of the many forms that this tribalizing tendency takes is cultural parochialism or elitism, the assumption that it ought to be obvious that our culture and cultural expression of Christianity is so clearly superior (and more blessed by God) than any other such form that the best way for the lost in other nations to become saved is to re-create them in our own cultural image. Never mind that our culture has the huge besetting sins of greed, various forms of idolatry, rampant sexual immorality, materialism and a host of other self-centered and selfish practices that in no way honor Christ and his self-giving love.

This isn’t just a problem for overseas missionaries to overcome. Thanks to our multicultural society, especially here in the islands, we can all look at the church next door and conclude that their cultural expression of faith in Christ is less biblical than our own. Sometimes that’s true. Many times, though, I think it’s because we read our cultural values into God’s word rather than allowing God’s word to transform our cultural values.