My tendency (and I would argue, everyone's) is to see things through the lenses of the culture we grew up in. That's what I know. No where is this more magnified than in a cross-cultural environment. And you know what? It's hard. It's messy. And I'm often making mistakes. My tendencies come out so quickly when I see things that are unfamiliar. Often times I don't even know I'm doing it.
If I'm honest, my gut reaction is that the differences that I see around me tend to be negative. I don't think I'm alone in this either. Unfamiliar = bad and familiar = good. This is a tough pill to swallow!
"Wait, in Latin America you can be late to meetings? That's terrible."
"Wait, in the middle east you start to eat dinner at 10pm? Weird. Wait...they smoke too??"
"In Japan you don't even use a subject in the sentence? That's not good. How do you know what people are saying?"
"Your family is really loud. Why is that?"
"Why do they not make eye contact when looking at me?"
I could go on and on. The tendency in these situations is for me to take my preferences and overlay them to what I see. When I do that the result is almost always a negative experience.
What if we waged a war against our flesh which tells us, "My way is the best way (sin)". What if instead, by God's grace, we looked at God's creation and said, "His."? I have the opportunity to die daily. To wage a war against my flesh and my preferences and to become "as to the Japanese, a Japanese".
Did I need to move to Japan to do this? No. And this is my conviction, and my purpose in writing. I am guilty of being lazy, apathetic, ashamed, and embarrassed of my beliefs. It took me moving to Japan to realize how much I rely on myself instead of dying every day to tell people the greatest news on earth: the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's in varying degrees, but as you try to get to know your neighbor--put yourself in their shoes. Ask questions. Get to know them. In doing so you'll accomplish at least three things:
- You'll understand more about the tapestry of God's infinite design and love (Romans 1:20)
- You will be obedient to scriptures by considering others more important than yourself (Philippians 2:3)
- You will share the gospel with them, and display the love of Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20)
You don't need to move to Japan to learn about how selfish you are. I didn't either. God had me do it and I'm grateful for it. There is much more learning and sharing to be done here.
Get to know your neighbors. Suspend judgment and consult the scriptures. While your neighbor might have different color skin, and they might make foods that are stinky, and they might not talk loud enough for you to hear them, they might speak in a language that's difficult to understand but you know what? God made them beautiful. Seek to understand that beauty. As a Christian, when you understand that, you will understand Him and love Him more.
Go tell the Good News!