As Christians, how are we supposed to view and respond to other non-Christian cultures, especially other religious cultures?
Let’s start by stating that we can do no better than to follow the example of Jesus! What was that example?
1.) In John 4:12, we find Jesus talking to the woman at the well of Samaria. How did he respond to her as a person of a different culture and religion? He carefully entered into conversation with her to draw her out – in order for her to realize that she longed for something better than she had. He did not criticize her lifestyle or belittle her knowledge of future events. He told her only what she needed to know to bring about more interest in her spiritual needs. In contrast, the disciples, at that time, would not have even talked to her because, to them, she was a gentile: one not worthy of salvation. They later learned that this isn't the outlook that God wanted them to have (Acts 10:28). In His interaction with this woman, Jesus demonstrated the true attitude we should have as His followers.
2.) In Mark 7:26, we see Jesus having gone way out of his way to meet and help the Syrophoencian woman. She had a daughter that needed healing. The first thing Jesus does is demonstrate to the disciples that they should not mistreat people outside of our religion and culture. Then he healed her daughter in response to her faith. She must have heard that Jesus didn't have the same prejudices that the Jews in general had. It took the disciples some time to unlearn and overcome these negative attitudes toward people of other nationalities, races, and religions.
3.) In Luke 9:54, we find that Jesus has to rebuke his disciples (James and John) for not understanding the right way to treat people of another religious view. James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven and destroy this Samaritan village because they would not let the disciple make lodging arrangements in their town – which hurt the disciples’ national and religious pride. (The Samaritans found out that Christ's intentions were to go on to Jerusalem and this hurt their pride.) Jesus was telling them that they did not understand the spirit that was controlling them. It is Satan that tries to build up animosity between nations, religions, races, etc.
4.) In Matthew 8:5, a centurion approaches Jesus and asks him to heal his servant. This was a Roman citizen. The Jews hated the Romans. Jesus sets us the example that nationality is not to be a barrier for the gospel.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:14 that we are to consider the “world” as our mission field. But because of hate over race, national pride, and religious intolerance, Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
The Bible explains in Revelation 5:9 that there will be Christians in heaven from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation". We're all equal in God's sight: "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us." (Acts 17:26-27)
What is the meaning and interpretation of what we have just studied? Jesus was never afraid to help people, regardless of their national, ethnic, religious, or racial background. He went about doing good for everyone. This is our task as well! When it is our intention to spread the wonderful message about Jesus and His kingdom, we can trust that God’s Holy Angels will accompany us on our mission. We are supposed to go into all the world with this Good News (Matthew 28:19-20).
The problem that Christians get into is they forget that this is why we are to associate with the “world”, and too often they began to “play” with those of the world. When we get mixed up and don’t keep our commission straight, we get into trouble. Example: The children of Israel, who were victorious before their enemies, but after they began to associate with the “heathen” (people who are not Christians or act like they are not Christians), they started to play, eat, drink, and worship a false god -- even prostituting themselves in a drunken orgy! For this, they lost God’s protection and were punished for open rebellion.
The bottom line is this: We associate with the “world” and rub shoulders with them with the consciousness that we are doing them good and leading them into a clearer knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and his kingdom. We are NOT here to let down our hair and become best friends. This comes only after they accept Jesus as Lord of their life.
How can I make such a bold statement?? The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship hath righteousness and unrighteousness? Or what accord hath light with darkness? What accord hath Christ with Belial (Satan)?” This statement “unequally yoked” is often used to refer to marriage, but it also includes partnerships in business, recreation, ownerships, etc. Then verses 16-18 continue: "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
We need to take God’s Word seriously. “God is not mocked. For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7 “...so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
In summary, we are to "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Mark 12:31) despite our cultural differences, but we aren't supposed to live like our non-Christian neighbors (Titus 2:11-13).
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