Humility, Culturally Defined or What Kind of Person Are You?

Cover of "Cross-cultural Servanthood: Ser...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s Monday Missions Motivator comes from Duane Elmer’s Cross Cultural Servanthood.* He says:

“Humility is a mandated attitude for all believers everywhere; however, the way humility is expressed takes on a cultural face.

Perhaps it is the inability to “wear” this cultural face of humility that has prompted many in the world to charge North Americans with superiority or arrogance in spite of our declared efforts to serve the nationals.

The Lausanne Willowbank report, created by Christian leaders from around the world, affirms this perspective:

We believe that the principal key to persuasive Christian communication is to be found in the communicators themselves and what kind of people they are…

We desire to see…”the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1)

There is the humility to take the trouble to understand and appreciate the culture of those to whom we go. It is the desire which leads naturally into that true dialogue “whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand.”

We repent of the ignorance which assumes that we have all the answers and that our only role is to teach. We have very much to learn. We repent also of judgemental attitudes. We know that we should never condemn or despise another culture, but rather respect it. We advocate neither the arrogance which imposes our culture on others, nor the syncretism which mixes the gospel with cultural elements incompatible with it, but rather a humble sharing of the good news–made possible by the mutual respect of a genuine friendship.”

The words above “trouble to understand” are appropriate, for understanding is troublesome. First of all, because it takes time and patience. Ah, but when we are “called” and have a “work to do”, who wants to sit and listen? We want to run and do.

Grave mistake.

Secondly, it’s troubling because we want to be meek and gentle while we’re “doing”… like a bowling ball hurling full force aiming at all ten pins. And how often the recipients of our “doing” wait patiently, often without saying anything? It usually takes years before we realize our ignorance in our assumptions.

Moreover, it causes us trouble because often it doesn’t fit into our own understanding, and we find ourselves psychologically and emotionally scrambled.

Which is the reason for humility. A becoming “less than”; also the reason for repentance, which paves the way for humility. We need to have teachable attitudes, respecting whatever culture in which we may work. Not that we necessarily like everything in that particular culture.

But who’s talking about what we like or dislike?

I respect my husband greatly, but honestly there are things I may not like about him. And I know my husband loves me enough to die for me, but I honestly admit that he doesn’t like everything about me either. Our relationship is strong because we’re committed within the genuine friendship we share, regardless of our paltry likes or dislikes.

Let’s change our cultural faces and wear them with humility, so the Good News can be made possible through genuine friendship.

Who’s with me?

  • pg. 33 (IVP Books,2006)

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4 thoughts on “Humility, Culturally Defined or What Kind of Person Are You?

    1. Good thought provoking book; makes you aware so that baby steps can be taken toward good cross-cultural relationships. Blessings on your work.

  1. This book was one of my husband’s favorites from his Fuller Seminary reading list. Reading through your post, I can see why. Great food for thought.

    I do think a humble attitude is the key to effective cross-cultural service, yet it is so easy to subconsciously slip into thought patterns that say, “My way is better.” “They are so disorganized, incompetent, etc., etc.”

    May the Lord give us his grace.

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