<<way of life, traditions>>
The customs and traditions of a particular nation, people or group. On a personal level it’s how we live, what we do. We are to value and respect all people but may question particular cultural practices. Many cultural beliefs that have been handed down from one generation to the next (especially in Godless societies) have aspects that are in direct violation to Bible teaching and principles. Paul’s instruction was that the church should make a definite stand against sinful activities such as those revealed in the Corinthian church which was plagued with the sexual liberty of the pagan practices of the surrounding community (1 Cor 5:1-13). Be careful and wise before endorsing or participating in activities that arise out of customs, because the majority are not godly or beneficial to society, eg. Halloween, which on the surface might appear as ‘just a bit of fun’, but has evil connotations. Experimenting with or participating in different cultural activities can appear harmless but depending on the practice it may lead onto fully embracing an ungodly practice and so through deception you will lose your commitment to Christ (1 Kgs 11:1-6; 2 Kgs 17:15, 21:2). “Don’t let the world or any culture, squeeze you into its mould” (Rom 12:2). The Bible is to be our standard in what we think, believe and do. Most aspects of heathen culture cater to the carnal desires and have powerful evil powers that control and keep people’s mind bound. Two examples are voodoo and witchcraft.
It may be culturally acceptable yet contrary to God’s way
the Israelites was, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about the gods of other nations and do not imitate their detestable ways (Deut 12:30, 18:9). Today we should influence the surrounding culture, by engaging with it. Don’t isolate yourself from the culture but insulate yourself from its wrong influences. Like a boat – be in the water but don’t let the water be in you. It is wise to avoid shrines and temples as they have been dedicated to evil forces, having various souvenirs personifying evil spiritual influences that should not to be purchased. Paul provides a model for us in how to engage another culture respectfully. It begins with observation, then when he spoke he established common ground from which he gave a reasoned explaination and clearly communicated the gospel (Act 17:16-34).
Cross-cultural interaction occurs between two or more cultures. Often there is a major diversity or cultural distinctiveness between different groups. What is acceptable to one culture can be offensive to another group, thus there needs to be a degree of orientation into the various etiquettes and customs of a different race (especially for missions work). Thus cultural relativism refers to not judging a culture by our own standards of what is right or wrong, strange or normal. Instead, it is trying to understand cultural practices of other groups in its own cultural setting. Awareness and sensitivity to other cultures and customs is needed so as not to offend, but before embracing them, consider will it honour or dishonour God, will it help or hinder my being a believable witness for Christ? Don’t compromise on clearly defined Bible teachings or override your conscience. However, when people see you making genuine attempts to embrace their amoral ways (where no moral considerations apply) and attempt their language it builds bridges so you can share your faith.
All cultures need to hear about Jesus in a way they can comprehend
Jewish Gentiles (Act 10:28, 18:6, 26:20). However, we are not to impose western cultural views on others, but rather share the gospel – understanding that Christianity is not a European religion although in the past Europeans were the most active in propagating it.
Culture shock occurs when our way of life is confronted by one that we are unfamiliar with, especially in another country. Common feelings are anxiety, disorientation, uncertainty, confusion and homesickness. Besides Daniel as mentioned above, there are numerous others in Scripture who encountered new cultural settings. Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland to go and live among people whose culture and religion were drastically different to his own (Gen 46:1-7,28-34). Moses was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land and be faithful to the God who liberated them in the midst of competing culture and religion (Ex 3:7-10). The NT disciples were called by Jesus to leave behind their family and careers to become travelling missionaries (Mk 1:17, 3:14).
Jesus left the glory of heaven and came to this sinful world. "But [Christ] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of man [physically but not in character], He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross" (Phil 2:6-8).