We as Christians have the mandate to preach to Gospel to all nations, all ethnicities, and all cultures. The mandate is not to bring the good news only to those who look like us but also to those who don’t. That is what we call the multicultural mandate. We must understand that our God is multicultural. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are multicultural.
The Apostle John said in Revelation 7:9 that he saw in heaven a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language”. The church in heaven will be multicultural. Therefore, it is necessary to reach the other nations for Christ. However, we must recognize that there some obstacles to multiculturalism. One of them is Culture.
In every obstacle is a hidden opportunity, said someone. Culture is an obstacle to multiculturalism but it can be turned into an opportunity. But first, let us define culture. What is it? American anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber came up with about 167 different definitions of what culture is. The complicated definition was that culture is “the totality of transmitted behavior patterns that identifies a social group”. The behavior patterns are specifically the way that you dress, eat, react emotionally, the way you receive someone in your home etc. Simply put, culture is everything that identifies you as who you are. As of Haitian descent, my culture is everything that identifies me as Haitian. Same thing for Cubans, Americans, Australians, or French.
It’s important to know that just as my culture appears normal to me, someone else’s culture appears normal to them. When I look at my fellow Haitians, everything they do appears normal to me. But when I start looking at the Brazilians, the Portuguese, or the Russians, their customs will seem somewhat abnormal to me.
Respect, Value and Purify culture
We will look at culture three different ways. We will see that culture needs to be accepted, valued and purified. In Romans 15: 7, we read, “Therefore receive one another as Christ has received you, for the glory of God”. Here Paul is appealing to Romans to welcome one another just as Christ did. I imagine that Paul was writing to Christians coming from various cultures in Rome. Remember, Rome was a very important center of civilization at that time, and it was surely a very multicultural city. Paul encouraged Christians in Rome to accept one another just as Christ has accepted us. Regardless of their culture and their background, people need to be accepted. It is not only acceptance but also respect for that culture. Culture needs to be accepted but also respected.
Culture needs to be valued. Just as culture is important to God, it should also be valued by us. We should value where someone comes from, we should value the nations, the tribes, the peoples that are different from us. We as Christians have the duty to value people’s culture.
Culture needs to be purified. Let us take Haiti for example. Most of the world, when they hear Haiti, the next word that comes to mind is voodoo. It seems that to the world, voodoo is the face of Haitian culture. However, as Haitian Christians we understand that voodoo is not something to be embraced by people who know Christ, so we consider it as a vain way of living, as a useless thing to the living God. As Christian Haitians, we can deny the things that are vain, useless, and negative and we can remain Haitians. What makes me Haitians is not merely the fact that I practice voodoo, but the fact that I was born in a particular place with a particular way of eating, dressing, talking, living. I have received some customs from my ancestors. Some of those customs are good and others are bad. When I come to Christ, I’m going to drop the bad and keep the good.
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