Does the book of Jonah contain some convicting lessons for American Christians? Pastor Jeff Jackson thinks so as he reflects on the compartmentalizing component of American Christian culture.
Jonah 1:5 Then the mariners were afraid; and every man cried out to his god…..
Jonah 1:6 “What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God, perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish”.
Jonah 1:9 So he said to the, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land”.
What the ship’s crew did and what they encouraged Jonah to do is one of the things that I love about cross-cultural ministry.
Ministry in other countries or ministry to those now living in the U.S. who were born and raised in other countries produces situations and conversations similar to what took place that day on that ship.
Having been born and raised within American culture and being somewhat a product of it, I knew going out and telling others about Him probably wouldn’t be well received.
To put it succinctly, I vastly underestimated what came back at me from those I tried to share with.
If looks were daggers, I would have died from blood loss after the first three or four people I tried to talk to. It was a miracle I didn’t end u with frostbite from the “cold shoulders” that were thrust my way as soon as I began talking about Jesus.
It was a steep learning curve to say the least.
This isn’t the place to go into detail about American culture, but as any casual observer of cultures learns quickly, Americans are masters at living compartmentalized lives and actually pride themselves that they do so.
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve tried to talk to Americans about Jesus and heard this response, “my faith is very private to me and I don’t like to talk about it”.
But the majority of the cultures of the world don’t live compartmentalized lives.
You can’t separate their religion from their culture–they are tightly interwoven.
If you ask them about their gods or their religion, they are happy to tell you about it.
If you can speak their language, they will even take the initiative to tell you about their gods and their religion and then ask you about yours.
If they hear someone, (generally an American or Western European), tell them that their faith is private, they wonder what kind of faith that person has if they aren’t willing to talk about it.
Their logic is, “If that person’s faith is of help to them and is good for them, why wouldn’t they share it with others and pass around the goodness for everyone to benefit from?”
Fellow followers of Jesus, in case you haven’t noticed, the global ship that all of us are on is in the midst of the biggest storm it’s ever encountered.
People are crying out to their gods and expecting everyone else to cry out to their gods too…the situation is that dire.
If ever there were a time for the followers of Jesus that come from America to go against their compartmentalized culture and to cry out to the true and living God for the good of the passengers on the ship and to also tell others about their God so He can be contrasted with all the other gods people’s worship, the time is now!
Those of you who serve in contexts where people talk freely about their religion and their gods and think you’re strange if you don’t–you’ve been given an incredible privilege.
Please, please, please exercise that privilege, even if it isn’t asked for.
And please pray for those who live in countries and among people whose culture has placed a great value on living a compartmentalized life–especially in regards to matters of faith.
Boldness is needed.
God never wastes a storm, neither should we.