Further thoughts from Pastor Jeff Jackson on the similarities between a typical American entering the military and a typical American Christian serving as a cross-cultural worker in a country outside of the U.S.
Whether we as Americans realize it not, the priority that individualism, independence, and egalitarianism receive within our culture actually keeps us from experiencing the true community, interdependence, and appropriate honor both individually and as a group, that our Creator designed us for.
When a typical American goes into the military, regardless of whether He is a follower of Jesus or not, that person is forced to taste and embrace the three cultural values that God designed us to experience.
The leaders of the military are not aware that they are actually introducing new recruits to life and cultural traits that their Creator hard-wired them for, but that is exactly what they end up accomplishing.
And even though many recruits resist having some of their key cultural traits replaced, when they eventually do embrace the foundational culture norms of the military, they find something satisfying and just plain “right” that nothing in their previous experience had ever produced.
Using ideas from the realm of computers, it’s like the hard-wiring was there in each recruit, but it had been covered with software that was very user-friendly and promised satisfaction, but that never ultimately delivered, and in fact, produced the opposite of what it claimed to provide.
When a follower of Jesus moves to a country outside the U.S. and begins living, learning, loving, and serving among people whose key cultural values are so different than their own, they too naturally resist permitting their key cultural values being replaced.
When God’s Spirit moves them to begin to embrace new cultural traits, especially the three I’m referencing, and they begin to build real and deep relationships with the people they are trying to reach, something comes alive within them.
Something that was there all along in their hard-wiring, but hidden, very similar to what the new recruit in the military experiences.
And inevitably, their view of themselves, of God, of His word, of their fellow countrymen, and especially of the people they now live among is transformed.
The transformation, as challenging as it is, turns out to be incredibly exhilarating because they know in their heart of hearts that their understanding of the way things are is finally beginning to line up with the reality of the way things are….and that is exciting!
In many ways, what the missionary experiences as their begin to adopt some of the key cultural traits of those they are serving, is a taste of God’s design for community, interdependence, and appropriate honor both individually and as a significant member of a group.
In fact, I believe the whole cross-cultural transformation process a missionary goes through is a perfect example of the outworking of what Paul declares in this verse:
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.