Swallowing My Cultural Bias

Michal Blog

I have just started reading a book that my mother recommended me called ‘Huia Come Home’. If you haven’t heard of the book, it is written by a New Zealander named Jay Ruka and is said to offer “a fresh perspective on the narrative of Aotearoa; a tale of two cultures, warring worldviews, and the things we lost in translation.”

I’m not very far through the book yet – I’ve only finished the Tuatahi (first part) – but so far I am loving it (which, really, I should have expected since my mum and I have very similar tastes in books).

Worldview is something that I have thought a lot about over the last few years – ever since I took a paper at Laidlaw entitled ‘Ways of Knowing’. This paper was one of the most challenging papers I have taken because it forced me to begin considering why I think the way I think.

As a teenager, I had never really considered what sort of cultural bias I might have about things, but, after taking the paper, I realised that my worldview impacted everything that I thought and believed.

I am a Christian, so I see the world differently than my pre-Christian friends.

I am Pakeha, descended primarily from British people, so I have a ‘Western’ perspective on things.

I am a New Zealander, so I have a ‘kiwi perspective’.

I am the eldest child in my family, so I’m an over-achiever and a bit of a people pleaser.

I was homeschooled, so I’m a bit weird.

The list goes on and on and on. There are so many different parts of me, and they all affect my worldview.

Living in Queenstown this year, I have become increasingly aware that my worldview also has a massive impact on how I relate to God and how I understand the Bible. So many of the people that make up the Queenstown corps come from cultures that are different from my own, which means that they see God a bit differently, and their way of worshipping God is a bit different from what I’m used to, but they’re still Christians.

It has been lovely to see people worshipping God in their own language and knowing that, while I don’t understand a word they are saying, they are worshipping the same God that I worship.

One thing I have had to learn this year is how to interact with other Christians without attempting to colonise them.

When I talk about colonising people, I’m referring to the way the Western world used to take over a country and then force their own culture and worldview on the original inhabitants. They were so convinced that their way was the right way that they tried to transform each country they took over so that they became a reflection of the motherland.

This is sort of frowned upon now on an international scale, but I realised this year that sometimes I’m guilty of doing it on a one-on-one scale. There have been times when I have been meeting with a Christian whose cultural understanding of God/Christianity/Spirituality is very different from my own, and instead of praising God for the diversity of his creation, I have been tempted to tell them that the way they do things is completely wrong and that the only right way is my culture’s way.

Instead, I have had to learn to take a step back, swallow down my own ‘Western’ worldview, and try and figure out how I can best support them on their journey with God.

It isn’t an easy lesson to learn, but I believe that it is a worthwhile one.

Please, God, may my cultural bias never be as damaging to those I disciple as my British ancestors’ bias has been to the Māori people and their culture.

Reckless Love

Ben Blog

Recently, here in the Central Division, we have had our Central Youth Conference (CYC). It was such an awesome time and so encouraging for me as a youth worker to see the Holy Spirit moving amongst so many young people. I thought I would take the opportunity with this blog to cover some of the highlights of the sermons.

One point that stuck with me was the idea of building ‘spiritual muscle’. When you are using your phone, you don’t wait for it to die before you charge it; it might get to 20%, or 50% or something when you charge it. The same kind of thing applies to our spiritual lives. Yes, going on camps and to conferences and the like will recharge your ‘spiritual batteries’ to 100%, but if you do not attempt to sustain your relationship with God after the event and are just waiting for the next camp you go on, then you are like the person who lets their phone die before they recharge it. You are letting your spiritual life slip and fall off the cliff. Instead, you must keep connecting with God in your own time, and experience God at home, not just at camps and conferences. When you take the time with God at home, you become like the wise person who puts their phone on charge before it dies.

Another point which struck a real chord with me was the ‘reckless’ love of God. Some may say that it is wrong to call God’s love reckless because it is so measured and well thought out. However, I love the imagery of describing God’s love as reckless. To us at a human level, it would seem reckless and dangerous to leave the 99 sheep just to find the 1 who had gone away. To us, we would probably think, “Ahh well, cut your losses. I used to have 100 sheep, but now I have 99 and that’s not so bad.” God is not like this. Once the 1 has gone away, God pursues that 1 until they come back to the fold.

For me, this idea of God coming after the 1 who got away struck a personal chord with me as it reflects on my testimony quite significantly. No matter how much I tried to run from God, and offended Him in the process, he still came after me with His forgiving, reckless love.

Here are the lyrics to the chorus of Reckless Love:

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God

Oh, it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine

I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God