Most Christians Don’t Speak English

Myopia is a medical term for nearsightedness. Sadly, many Christians suffer from social and spiritual myopia.

We can see the things and people that are close to us very clearly. The people that are further from us culturally or ethnically, or by wealth or education we don’t see as clearly. Sometimes we walk right past them and don’t see them. Sometimes we look around our community and only see people like ourselves.

In this short but excellent video Russell Moore encourages mono-cultural churches to ask why they’re monocultural. But don’t look around a room and ask people like yourself. You need to go outside the church building, into the community and have those conversations with people of other races. Is there a reason that a Black, Hispanic, or Chinese family wouldn’t come to this church?

Is it possible that churches filled with white Americans have come to view ourselves as the definition of a Christian? That our standards should be universal standards? That our beliefs should be universal beliefs? That our “way” of doing church is the “right way”?

This mindset decreases the likelihood that a church will make changes in order to accommodate others. We’re more likely that even when we acknowledge different perspectives of time flexibility between cultures we’ll still demand that African or Latin-Americans keep a schedule that we’re comfortable with, rather than adopting looser start and finish times. Because the way we do things is the right way.

We might convince ourselves that four-part harmony is the “reverent” way to worship God, oblivious to the roots this style of music has in European culture. Because this is the right way to worship, we expect others to become like us, rather than us learn to appreciate Japanese or Indian musical worship genres.

The way we define “normal” is crucial for churches wrestling with the challenges of multiculturalism. Life in a multi-ethnic church must challenge our myopia. We also need to acknowledge our tendency toward myopia and be alert for its symptoms.

I’ll leave my commentary there and I hope you enjoy this video.

Why Did Jesus Choose a Samaritan?

Luke 10 contains Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. The basic message is that we are to love each person that crosses our path.

The parable Jesus told contains an additional message that we might easily rush by.

In the previous chapter (Luke 9) a Samaritan village refused to provide food and shelter for Jesus because he was traveling to Jerusalem. That sounds like prejudice at its finest. Jesus’ disciples then sought to return the favour as they asked if they could call down fire from heaven upon the village. Jesus rebuked them and walked on to another village.

good samaritan 01A little later when asked to answer the question “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus tells a story that contrasts the religious leaders of the day and a foreigner. If Jesus simply wanted to create a contrast for his story, he could have told the parable of the Good Undertaker, or the Good Tax Collector. He could have used any number of unclean or unwelcome characters from Jewish society. Instead, Jesus made his hero a Samaritan.

In choosing a Samaritan as his hero Jesus provided a subversive commentary on Jewish societal attitudes of the day. So if you think Jesus wouldn’t have anything to say about race relations in the US (or any other country) today, you’re wrong.

A significant message from this parable is that we are to love our neighbours that have black or white skin. We are to love those who speak English poorly, or not at all. Of course, none of us are racists. But there are some groups of people we don’t like very much.

  • The (white) suburbs don’t like when the (black) city starts spreading outward.
  • We complain aobut all the Indians in the call centers who we can’t understand.
  • We don’t like the (sometimes illegal) immigrants taking “our jobs”.
  • We don’t like the Asians we see driving around town in their nice cars. (Because they all drive Mercedes, right?)
  • We’re uncomfortable driving through neighbourhoods where the store signs are all in another language.

Maybe we don’t want to call down heavenly fire onto these people, but it would be a stretch to say that we love them.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr Day. As a figurehead within the civil rights movement he played a pivotal role in bringing great transformation to this country. In his “I Have A Dream” speech he made the statement,

I have a dream, that one day, my four little children will live in a country where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.

That’s a dream Jesus had for the world. Jesus dreamed of a kingdom defined not by ethnicity, but by character. It’s certainly a sentiment found in this parable. In verse 37 we find that the true neighbour is not identified by race, but as “The one who had mercy upon him.

We need to respect the colour of skin, and the riches of languages and cultures of other people. We also need to look beyond these traits to their heart needs and their character.

In The Parable of The Good Samaritan Jesus makes a subversive statement about race relations. “Samaritans are God’s people too.” It’s a message that retains its relevance in 2014.