Wednesday, July 10, 2013

cross cultural challenges

Good afternoon sisters and brothers,
We read yesterday about the challenging reception Paul and Barnabas received in a synagogue. Some of the religious Jews were angry that they were teaching about Jesus, since to them it seemed to contradict their tradition. Basically, the religious leaders in Jerusalem had judged Jesus guilty of blasphemy for calling himself the son of God. When the evangelists continued that message, it shouldn't surprise us, or them, that many other Jewish leaders also felt that was blasphemy.

In today's reading Paul and Barnabas discover that there are entirely different challenges preaching to gentiles. With many Jews the issue is a disagreement about what the Bible means; with gentiles, the challenge is a totally different religious background. The confusion in this story will be repeated in other places and times with gentiles. The truth is that whenever we talk with people from a different background we have to remember that our background shapes how we see the world, so misunderstandings are possible. The more we can be aware of what our assumptions are and how they might lead us into misunderstandings, the easier cross-cultural conversation will be.

God bless,

Acts 14:8-20
8 In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. 9He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10said in a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And the man sprang up and began to walk. 11When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in human form!’ 12Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

13The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice. 14When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, 15‘Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; 17yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.’ 18Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

19 But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.

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