It has been my blessing to see people surrender their culture to the Gospel. What did he say? In the mission field and at home I have seen people reach the point in their faith that obedience to God mattered more to them than whatever constituted their “cultural norm.” Their “norms” were holding them captive. The Gospel liberated them. Have you seen those people? Are you one of those people?
Let me remind you of the Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18). Jesus talked to him and his “cultural norm” was, “I have done all that stuff, I keep all the rules, and I am good enough to follow you.” (My paraphrase). Jesus’ point of view was quite different. He said the young man lacked one thing. Jesus told him to go and sell all he had, give it to the poor, and then follow after Jesus. The first amazing thing that happened is the young man went away sorrowful. He was not willing to let go of what his culture told him was good to embrace what Jesus said would be better. Even more amazing, Jesus didn’t suffer from fear and frustration and go begging the young man to come back. (That’s material for another lesson!)
There comes a point when we must believe more in what Jesus calls us to do and be than we believe our “cultural norms.” In Africa, Masai believers had to let go of life-long ancestor worship in order to embrace Jesus. It could not be the ancestors and Jesus. Faith had to be in Christ alone. Some church leaders there had to overcome certain cultural prejudice to fully embrace obedience to the Word and its call to evangelize. Believers in Russia had to let go of a culture that is steeped in sorrow, misery, and difficulty to experience by faith the joy of following Christ. Believers in the Caribbean must move beyond the satanic influences of cults to embrace the message of salvation.
It’s easy to look “at them” because “they” are “over there.” We don’t have those problems. Really? I can’t reach out to those people, they are __________ (fill in the blank). Maybe it’s a lifestyle, maybe it’s a cultural class barrier, maybe it’s economics, or….. Here’s the model to follow: Jesus valued obedience to His Father above all else. His obedience crossed racial and cultural barriers frequently. His obedience bought our salvation. And we will only see the great things He desires in our lives when our passion for obedience is like His and is more important to us than our cultural norms. Open hands before Him release whatever they hold, but they are also open to receive what He wants to give. The choice, like the young ruler’s, is ours. We can hang on to our norms, or we can open up, let go, and belive Him for better and great things.