Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Becoming all things to all men

Any language, in any area, has its idioms (modismos en espanol)--things that don't mean what they seem to say, or ways of saying things that are unique. I've never heard "you'un's" anywhere but in E. Ky, and the only ones who know what "I'm fixin' to do _____" means are usually Texans and some Tennesseans. In Puerto Rico, there are some things you can't commonly find here--like brisket, hominy, etc. When you ask for it, they will tell you, "no trabajamos esto aqui", which would be translated literally "we don't work that here". Obviously, the idea is better stated "we don't sell that". Where ever you are, the language is a little different from other places.

Of course the differences extend beyond just language--the way some things are done, what is polite or impolite, the food they eat, how people can be reached with the Gospel, etc. When a person moves to a new culture it can be very uncomfortable at first. You have 2 choices--to adapt to your "new culture" or to refuse to adapt.

The apostle Paul traveled into many different cultures in just a few years, spending a couple of years in Galatia, then returning to Antioch, only to leave again to travel through Galatia into Macedonia, then Achaia, not to mention later Asia, and even Rome. Paul was raised a proper Jew, which involved not only religion but his way of life, his dress, what he ate, etc. In 1 Cor. 9:19-22 he talks about how he became "as a Jew" when around Jews, but "as a Gentile" when in their company. He sums it all up by saying, "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." Was Paul a hypocrite? No, I understand this to mean that he tailored his speech and perhaps clothing, his mannerisms, and actions to reach those he was with.

We must learn to do the same thing. Illustrations about racoons, wolves, bears, and buffalo mean little to people in the Caribbean--many have never seen them, not even on TV, so by the time you explain the illustration, the point you wanted to make gets lost. When you learn that a certain phrase means a certain thing here, use it that way. Dana tells me that when I preach in Spanish I'm much more animated, speak louder, and use my hands even more than usual. My only defense is that's the way you're supposed to preach in Spanish. "I have become all things to all men".

This extends to many areas--the way we dress, the food we offer others, etc. But the point of all of it is "that I might save some". Are you willing to step out of your comfort zone to save others? The apostles were.


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