In the past few years, God has been teaching me a lot about culture.
I have always loved to get to know people who are very different from me. Being immersed in a new environment and being exposed to experiences that are unique to my every day has always energized me. Born and raised in southern California, I crave the knowledge and wisdom of the culturally diverse.
God designed the beautiful diversity of our world. It is not only found in people, but in nature and weather and the animal kingdom. He has blessed us with variation and differences that keep us in a state of endless wonder. Even the sunset is brand new each day.
But why would God make His image-bearers so diverse?
Culture is something that our Creator intended from the beginning of time. It is not a punishment or an accident. Sure, there are negative aspects that make it difficult for us to relate to one another, or to fully understand each other. It can cause frustration, division, and isolation.
Reconciliation Within Culture
However, if we approach cultural diversity from God’s perspective, we can have access to a whole new world. A world where people who speak different languages can communicate by smiling, laughing, and charades. A world where misunderstanding and strife can be eliminated by humility and empathy.
When a person has grown up in a different part of the world than you have, or they have been raised with cultural traditions that differ from your own, you can learn so much from each other. In every country that I have traveled to, I have been exposed to various aspects of my Creator through those that He has created; we are all made in His image and each person has something unique to contribute to the Kingdom. We can connect through our similarities and learn from our differences.
Getting Uncomfortable in Other Cultures
Last year, I was assigned a project that involved interviewing a business owner that was not a Christian, and that spoke English as their second language.
I found out that the owner of my favorite Cuban restaurant was not originally from the U.S., but from Egypt. At first, he refused to be interviewed by me. I was very intimidated by him! I am a shy person, so I was really out of my comfort zone to begin with, and then he turned me down!
However, after spending some time with the other staff he actually agreed to sit down with me. He was a Muslim, and he was extremely hospitable to me; he brought me strawberry lemonade free of charge, and on a later visit he gave me a free slice of cheesecake.
I was so nervous for this experience that I was praying about it for the two weeks leading up to the encounter. I prayed that God would open this man’s heart and make him favorable towards me. Now, we know each other by name and I feel as though I’m in the company of friends whenever I go to his restaurant.
God orchestrated this encounter and carried me through. Whether someone is of a different religion, background, or culture, we are commanded to interact with and love one another. It can be an international experience or your neighbor across the street. Step out of your box and get to know someone who doesn’t look like you- it will be a potentially rich and invaluable experience.