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The good folks at CMS have leant me Duane Elmer’s book Cross-Cultural Connections. It’s really easy to read and has lots of useful things to say. The very first challenge it poses is to ask how much grey area you, the reader, are happy with between what you define as ‘right’ and what you define as ‘wrong’. How much behaviour (ways of worshipping, relating, conducting business, etc.) are you prepared to label ‘different’ rather than wrong?
It’s a fascinating question. I think I find it easier to count things as difference rather than error when I’m clearly immersed in a different country. I find it harder to treat brothers and sisters who are close (geographically or culturally) with the same grace. When I perceive someone to be in the same culture — when I expect them to share my values, to have had a similar upbringing, to enjoy the same things and to find the same things uncomfortable — then I make demands that I would never make of people I understand to be deeply embedded in another culture.
How often do we expect our ‘close’ brothers and sisters to think, act, sing, relate, dress and consume the same kinds of ways we do in order to be appropriately expressing their love of God. How much room do we allow one another to simply be different? I think I need some more practice at accommodating ‘non-wrong’ difference.