This morning in church our Cameroonian pastor began his sermon by asking if we had ever eaten a …..
viper (a snake)?
Some people thought the idea of eating a snake was bad, others thought it was ok.
But then he asked what if we would eat a …………..
Most people today said no, but he pointed out in some cultures eating cat is perfectly normal. The issue is not a biblical issue of what God allows but a cultural issue of what is aceptable.
Similarly in some cultures woman can wear trousers (even to church) but in others this is totally unacceptable.
The scripture for the morning was I Corinthians 10:31-33 which says:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks, or the church of God – even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so they may be saved.
(New International Version)
His point was that as we look at the things we do and the freedom we are given to live, we need to ask ourselves two questions.
The first question to consider is whether what we are doing brings glory to God? Now eating snake (or maybe cat) for most of us is not a moral issue. It does not really reflect on God’s glory one way or another. This means we can move to the second question which is whether what we are doing will offend those around us? This is where our cultures come in to play. What are acceptable and even honorable actions in one place, may be offensive in another. Our pastor pointed out that even within our church community there were cultural differences. As we discover these, we ought to respect them to avoid offending those around us.
This reminds me of the necessity to look around carefully to notice the culture in which I find myself. And then to change my habits so that they do not cause people to reject me before they have the opportunity to hear the message of the Gospel. Thus my habits will be different when I live in Yaounde as compared to my life in California. However whatever habits I adopt within the culture in which I am immersed need to be ones that are glorifying to God.