Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Girding Up For A New Year

In Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, Kenneth Bailey writes about the importance of “girding up” for service.

"The robes of the Middle East (worn by both men and women) nearly touch the ground. They were and are worn without belts. The hot climate makes loose fitting clothing the nearly universal preference. Any strenuous activity requires the wearer to tie a belt or rope around the waist to keep the bottom edge of the robe off the ground and out of the way. The Hebrews were instructed to tie up their robes on the ever of Passover in order to be ready to travel (Ex. 12:11). Elijah belted himself in preparation for running before Ahab’s chariot (1Kings 18:46) and Jeremiah was told to do so as he took up his ministry to the nations (Jer. 1:17). Ibn al Tayyib observes this practice in daily life around him and writes, ‘The person who wears a long robe, without a belt, is not equipped to travel or prepared to work’” (2008:369).

The parable in this passage of Scripture has a two-fold meaning. One is to remind us to be ready for the Lord’s return. Yeah, I know, we say that every year, but one day Jesus will come again, because he said he would (Jn 14:3). May we not be complacent or caught unaware, may we be vigilant, belted up, as we anticipate His soon return. Secondly, this is a passage that reminds us we must dress for success, sort of. Dressing properly, in this context, is dressing for work, to be engaged in service. People not dressed for success are slothful, not about the business of life.

It’s a new year that bears down upon us. Christmas with family, breaks from teaching is over. In a few days we sprint into a new decade

As I look at my 2011 calendar, travelling to India three times, Ukraine twice, Kenya and perhaps Russia, I realize that it’s time to gird up service, for work. May those who read this blog have a Happy New Year as you cinch up your belt for the task that God has given you to do.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Take-Away: Godly Conflict Resolution

Whenever I hear a speaker, read an article or read a book, I look for “take-aways;” a significant thought or statement that has meaning. Yesterday in church, our pastor, who is often dry as West Texas dust but who regularly comes up with incredible insights, offered up a take away that’s worth writing about.

He ended his sermon with a challenging question, “How can we, as Christians, subvert culture?” Of course the first issues I have to work through is his premise that Christians are to be about “subverting culture.” As a missionary anthropologist I advocate that Christians should NOT seek to subvert culture, at least not intentionally. Yes, I understand that when culture clashes with the Gospel it does bring about a subversive effect, but that subversion goes to the heart of man’s rebellion toward God. It is the sinful practices of humanity, manifested in everything from drunkenness, to divorce, polytheism and abortion that is the root of the problem, not the cultures in which we live. To be sure, the life of a follower of Christ will run counter-culture, as our Lord Himself was to the cultural practices of His day. But the issue is not subversion of culture but subversion to rebellion to a Holy God.

Godly conflict resolution is the answer to challenging worldview and cultural assumptions. As the pastor rightly pointed out, conflict resolution is a popular topic that can be found in the arena of business, marriage counseling as well as among the community of the church. Conflict is inevitable, but dealing with conflict is a mandate if a person or a community is to grow spiritually or even come to understand the Gospel. Many people refuse to address conflict assuming that by avoiding it they won’t have to deal with the messiness of sin; conflict is something they will just sweep under the rug. Conflict doesn’t exist if it can be ignored.

Perhaps one reason so few Christians share their faith with others is because of this reticence toward conflict. Let “sleeping dogs lie,” they contend. Why go to another culture and stir the pot? Why tell a friend or family member the answer to their problems is being a disciple of Christ? It’s easier to avoid conflict than try to resolve it godly or biblically.

There are many things that could be said about conflict resolution, certainly more than can be addressed in a blog. But last week I listened to a testimony of godly conflict resolution (click here to hear this amazing story). What struck me about this testimony was the courage it takes to resolve conflict. It’s a story of grace, a witness of what it means to be a disciple of the Master.

We are not called to subvert culture, but we are called to subvert that which keeps us, all of us, from knowing more about Him. Godly conflict resolution is important for all of us to understand and take away.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cross Cultural Communication from “Outsourced.”

The movie is about a U.S. novelty company selling their products from a call center in India. If these clips are uncomfortable, seen in poor taste, offensive, crude, well, that’s the point. Learning cultural rules and how to communicate properly runs both ways.

My name is....