In my last blog I outlined what I believe is a Christian response towards people of different races. I summarised my thoughts in the statement, “When it comes to race – embrace!” In this blog I want to answer the question, “What is a Christian attitude toward people of other cultures?”
Acts 17 affirms not just the unity of the human race but also the diversity of ethnic cultures: “From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries.” This refers to God’s original command to the first people to “be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth!” As groups of people settled in different parts of the earth, not only did different races develop but also distinctive cultures.
“Culture” is defined as “The collection of beliefs, values and customs developed by each society and transmitted to the next generation.” As we examine the varieties of cultures we find two things:
They’re not all bad. All people are made in the image of God and thus all people reflect that image to some extent through their culture. Some culture is rich in beauty and goodness. Of the many things I love about our multicultural society in Australia are all the varieties of food we enjoy from different nations.
In the book of Revelation chapter 21 the apostle John sees visions of the world to come: “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.” The splendor and glory of the nations refers to the good things that emanate from each of them. If culture will enrich human life and community in eternity then surely it can do the same now! We can enhance our lives by experiencing the good in things – the tastes, the sounds, the colour – in various cultures.
The second thing we find when examining other cultures is they’re not all good. All people are made in the image of God but that image has been marred by disobedience to God. Because of this some aspects of various cultures are tainted and some of it is just plain evil. An example of this is female circumcision. The World Health Organization estimates that three million girls and women a year are at risk of mutilation (approximately 8000 girls per day). This occurs mainly in Africa and in a few countries in the Middle East, Asia and among certain ethnic groups in Central and South America. Any aspects of a culture that lead to discrimination, alienation, poverty or a denial of basic human rights should be actively opposed.
The answer to determining whether culture is good or bad is to test it. The Bible encourages us to “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). So, when it comes to race – embrace! When it comes to culture – embrace the good!
What about the various religions? I’ll discuss that next week!