Since January, we’ve had the privilege of sharing our testimony regularly at churches in the Hamburg area. In most instances we are welcomed with open arms, but sometimes we do experience resistance. We’re not sure why — perhaps it is because we share about Stephanie having a call to preach (women are ordained in the Free Church but not affirmed by most individual churches.) Sometimes we feel resistance because we are Americans, and because of what that means in light of our new president. And many times, we simply find ourselves wading through the muddy waters of cross cultural communication, which has enough challenges of its own.
Communicating cross culturally is exhausting. It’s kind of like travelling through heavy fog. We have a general idea of where we’re going but the path is not clear. And in the midst of heavy fog we sometimes feel isolated and anxious. We may be learning to speak the language of our host culture, but we are still learning to understand the (often unspoken) nuances of the culture.
Even though these experiences are challenging and sometimes painful, they are trustworthy mentors if we allow them to be. These experiences give us a totally new perspective. For the first time in our lives, we are living as guests in another country. We are outsiders. We are beginning to understand a small fraction of what it feels like for minorities and immigrants in America who feel like outsiders every day. It is easy to identify with the Christ who reigns as powerful King, but might we dare to embrace His identity as suffering servant? This takes far more courage and requires real sacrifice on our part.
We catch a glimpse into God’s heart as we read Colossians 3:11 (NIV) “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” God uses cross cultural relationships in the church to refine and renew the heart of His church. Instead of avoiding or abandoning people who are different from us, our faith in Christ beckons us to embrace the other, relying on God’s strength. It is not because we are perfect and therefore will succeed, (we fall short every day.) But it is because Christ is made perfect in us and only then can we demonstrate true sacrificial love.
You and I have the Spirit of God living inside us. That means we have the God-given capacity to forgive and the space to encourage our neighbors, families, colleagues and even our enemies to seek true reconciliation and justice in our world. We must live into the verse: Christ is all that matters and HE lives in ALL of us. Please pray for the church in America and worldwide, that we might bear witness to the Spirit of reconciliation which makes all things possible. This is radical reconciliation and we believe this was at the center of Jesus’ heart when he suffered and died for you, me and the people we strive to love.