In the first of our new series on tricky questions in mission, UFM mission worker, Rosie Crowter, highlights the importance of considering our own – and others’ – worldview…
One of the most challenging things in cross-cultural work is to take off our own cultural glasses and put on the worldview of the people we work amongst. All of us look at the world and even read the Bible from our own cultural understanding, with our own worldview spectacles on.
God is the creator of all peoples and cultures, as Acts 17:26 reminds us (“From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth”). There is not one culture that is right and all the others wrong. God has made them all, and all can be seen in the Bible.
And what a wonderful mix of people God has made in his image – people of every nation, tribe, colour and culture. He cares for each individual.
To connect and communicate with someone from another worldview, we need to see things as they see them. We need to grapple with how to connect God’s Word with the people we talk to – who may come from a completely different worldview.
It helps if we first know our own worldview.
- For those in the West, that has traditionally been the guilt/innocence framework. Westerners tend to see right and wrong, to want honesty and justice. We see sin as disobedience to God.
- Papua New Guinea (and African cultures) view the world and the Bible through a fear/power framework. Traditionally they live in fear – fear of the spirits and what they will do to them. They fear death and fear what others will do. They want power – power in society, power to heal sickness, power to be big men with much land and many women and pigs.
- Many in Asian cultures wear honour/ shame glasses. The worst thing is to bring shame to people. Relational peace is very important – it was very shameful of Adam to reject the position God gave to him and in doing so break his relationship with his father God.
It’s not only our worldview that is different. Our upbringing, our personalities, our experiences, all contribute to shape how we see and respond to life situations. Sometimes the most challenging people to work with are those from the same world view as us, yet having different values and understandings and life experiences.
May we always remember God has made each person in his own image! We are all precious to him. Doesn’t that give us a glimpse of what a complex, intricate, creative, innovative God we serve? God longs for us to love and understand each other as he does us. And he has promised to give his wisdom to those who ask for it.
We can ask him to help us see each situation through the glasses of those we talk and work with – whatever culture they are from.
Many in our churches are from different backgrounds and understandings. Let us work to appreciate and understand each other so we can connect and share the different insights we have on God’s Word. God weaves a wonderful rich tapestry of people together. We can learn from each other and learn more of who God is.