I am in the midst of a four city trip.
Four cities over 19 days taking me from the west to the east coast of Canada with a one day layover in familiar territory.
The thought of it seems glamorous.
Travel, seeing new sights, meeting people, being in hotels, etc.
It also means waiting at airports, security lines, late night flights and arrivals, different beds, living out of a suitcase, adjusting to time zones (a four hour difference from one coast to the other), and being exposed to different cultures.
The culture part is what struck me as I began this journey.
No matter where you go you discover a distinct culture. Things are done a certain way, things are looked at through certain lenses, life is lived through a distinct light no matter where you go. Rarely do you see life lived out in the same fashion as it is at “home” – wherever home happens to be.
With that comes the perception that the “right” way to view the world is the one we know. Which can mean any perspective, different than “mine”, is viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. After all it is unfamiliar. “How can they think the way they do? How can they do what they do?” “What world have I gone to?”
On this trip I have been reminded just how diverse our “cultures are.” And it has caused me to think about two aspects surrounding culture.
One is our response to different cultures.
Let me be clear, diversity of culture goes beyond ethnicity. From one neighborhood to the next, from one community to the next, from one group of people to the next, one organization to the next, we discover different cultures. Culture is distinguished by the way we look at things, the way we do things, what is “typical” or “the lens” we view the world through. These help define our particular culture.
Which means that within any community there are various cultures. Some may be more prominent or prevalent than others. One neighborhood may be very different from the next. Groups of people, living together, working together, create a culture as they interact with each other. Organizations take on a particular culture. We see different cultures all around us.
I am involved in different organizations and each board has a different culture even though they are doing similar work.
Different cultures exist all around us.
In thinking of this reality it made me wonder how we respond to culture. Do we dismiss the culture which is different than ours? Do we try and understand it? Do we look down our noses at it? Do we neglect, ignore, or reject it – because it is different? Do we embrace it? Do we look at it with suspicion? How do we respond?
Now before we get either too defensive or try and measure how tolerant we are, viewing other people, who think differently than we do in a negative light, seems natural. Whether we have a “progressive, conservative, liberal, religious,” or some other perspective of life, it is natural to see “our culture” as the right way to view how life should be lived.
When we get exposed to a culture, different than our own, it is difficult not to view it questionably. Being around people who see and do things differently than I do has made me think about how I view and respond to cultures?
But it has given me another thought.
How does Jesus see culture?
God stepped into a time and space in our world. He stepped into a culture – much of which is foreign to what we experience today. And where He lived He was surrounded with other cultures as well. The Roman culture was present. He spent time in Egypt as a child. He grew up in Nazareth – very different from Jerusalem.
And yet He embraced people – regardless of their culture. He called for His followers to “go into all the world” and make further followers of His.
Somehow He was able to look past the cultural walls we create and see people as they are. Look past all of the things which divide us and see what we have in common. He stepped past the division, the difference and stepped into the common and brought life.
It doesn’t mean nor do we fine where He embraced every point of view or cultural nuance people had. But what we do find is He looked for those places beyond what would naturally divide us and sought the common ground to offer hope and life.
Do I do that?
It is more difficult than trying to get everyone to embrace my “culture”, my way of doing things. It is harder to do that than it is to reject any culture I don’t understand or appreciate. But it is also only possible if it is based on a love for people which goes beyond anything I have ever felt.
When we read, “God so loved the world…” it is more than words. It is what He meant and demonstrated. It is what Jesus did – regardless of the culture He saw – including yours and mine.
Am I following His example? Are you?