One of my favorite quotes regarding living cross-culturally is this one by Duane Elmer:
"Among the hardest tasks in life is to divest (rid or strip) ourselves of the culture we wear so comfortably."
I think the following piece, written by Cindy Brandt, does a good job examining this struggle:
What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian
We all wear a set of spectacles. Everyone does. Those lenses dictate the way we view life. They determine the habits we make, what to eat, when to sleep, when to marry, and how to work. They assign value to our lives, determining what is meaningful: family, faith, honor, love.
What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that you can see Jesus wearing different spectacles. You do not have to abandon your spectacles, or switch it out for a new one in order to find Jesus. You do not have to forsake the cultural values you were assigned at birth, taught by your parents, passed down by your ancestors, in order to know Jesus. No, you find Jesus by looking through them.
What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that some people have mistaken the Good News to be changing out the spectacles for new ones. We have reduced the Gospel to be an exchange of values and habits. What I have seen in both cultures I reside in, is that there are good values and bad values in both; we are differently good and differently bad. We are quite equally flawed, not one culture can claim superiority to teach the other much. As long as we believe we are the Bearer of Right Values, we will be pronouncing ill-informed judgment on other cultures because we have not yet learned to see God through their spectacles.
What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is there is more than one right way to be Christian. When you see Jesus differently, your walk with Jesus is going to look differently. When people with different spectacles worship Jesus in the same way, it is likely because the dominant cultural narrative have subsumed the minority, often in the name of unity. They say that God is the same here, there, and everywhere, therefore if you follow God, you will look like me. Uniformity is a passive form of aggression. Homogeneity is coercing everyone to wear one pair of cultural lenses. It is leaving some people stripped of their core values, robbing them of dignity, leaving them without sight to see their way forward. It is perpetuating violence in the name of a nonviolent Jesus. The Good News is not that there are new spectacles we get to force upon other people’s faces. Jesus came wearing old spectacles, practicing Jewish laws, performing Jewish rituals.
What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that so much strife, across races, cultures, and nations, happen as a result of people being unaware of their spectacles, believing their worldview is the only right way to live. They begin to see others who live differently as evil or secular. That their way of living is uncivilized, less enlightened, sub-human. They refuse to believe that others also see God, that their lenses are just as clear, their view just as bright. That God reveals Jesus to everyone regardless of what culture they were raised in, no matter what color their skin.
What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that the Good News is the possibility for every tribe and nation to to participate in the life-giving, humanity affirming way of Jesus. When he taught us to love our enemies, he is showing us the way to honor a different way of doing life, to rest assure us all that every person is made in God’s image but situated to see God differently.
What I learned living cross culturally as a Christian is that the Gospel makes room for everyone, those who wear this set of lenses or that. It is Good News, indeed, that not any of us possess the singular image of God, that we only see a partial view, so that we spend our lives inviting more people to our table, to sit, eat, and tell us what they see.
Cindy was raised cross culturally, married cross-culturally, worked cross-culturally, and is raising her kids cross-culturally. She is grateful to be privileged with a unique vantage point - like she has been given two sets of spectacles in a world where most people wear only one.
Cindy writes at cindywords.com