Sunday, August 28, 2011

Transcending Culture


Since moving to Sudan the Bible Stories I’ve come to know and love have been infused with new colors and vibrant life.

When I read that Jesus fed the 5000, I imagine the crowds clad in Jalibias, barefoot with boogery-nosed babes on their knees.

When I read that a paralyzed man is carried on his bed by friends and let down through the roof to see what Jesus will do, in my head I see tukels and crowds pressing so close movement is impossible.

And I hear people calling from the back of the crowd: “What’s happening? Tell us. We can’t see!”

And I hear their whispers of marvel and awe: “He has forgiven the man’s sins! And now he’s walking! He’s WALKING!”

Can you hear them too?

And as I read of the centurion named Cornelius who sees a vision of an angel telling him to send for Peter, I can’t help but smile. Images of tall, stately Dinka men with spears and shields flood my brain.

Living in Sudan now brings new life to this story. The reality is that God could have used the angel in the vision to lead Cornelius to salvation.         --But He didn’t do that.

He wanted both Peter and Cornelius to push past their cultures. 

After the vision Cornelius quickly obeyed and sent men to get Peter. Then he gathered his family together expectantly.                                     -- This truly was a man of faith.

Peter, a day’s walk away, was praying and God gave him a vision of his own. In that vision God teaches him not to call anything impure that God has called clean (v. 15).

Then there is a knock at the door; Cornelius’ men have arrived.

Does Peter go with them? They are foreigners after all and servants of a Roman soldier! What do Jews have to do with Gentiles anyway, right?

His cultural dilemma must have been intense.

Clearly Peter had deep prejudices and cultural baggage or he would not have delayed. But eventually he goes with the men and meets Cornelius who has been waiting 4 days.

As they talk, Peter finally understands the lesson God had in mind and says, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (v.34).

And Cornelius’ whole family comes to salvation!         --Whoohooo!

Why does God use flawed people like Peter? Obviously he had severe anger and impulsivity issues. Clearly he was burdened by biases.

So why did God use him? Why?

Yes, God could have sent the gospel through the angel directly and Cornelius could have been saved 4 days before, but that would have bi-passed a great opportunity for  Peter to learn this powerful lesson.

So I ask again. Why does He use flawed people like me? Or like you?

It’s simple. He wants us to transcend culture, prejudices, and personality to see God at work. He wants to use flawed vessels for His glory. He wants to teach us His heart of love for the nations.

So if like Cornelius you are in a place of searching, seek until you find! And if like Peter you are in a cultural dilemma, push past it and speak God’s truth! And if like me you are wondering why God would use you at all, rejoice! 

It’s not about us anyway!

If you are unfamiliar with these wonderful stories, read them here: Acts 10, Mark 2, Luke 9