The message of the gospel is one that is understood across the globe: that Christ came and died for our sins so that we may live eternally with Him. However, understanding and applying Christ’s teaching may vary geographically. But why? I recently had the privilege of traveling to Germany with my family, and it was fascinating to learn about the German culture first-hand. However, the more we talked with local guides, something became shockingly apparent: A country’s cultural perspective affects the way they view and apply the gospel.
Now coming from America it’s incredible to learn about the history of a country that dates back far before our country was even discovered. But what is even more incredible is how much every citizen seems to know about the history of their nation, and how it affects the way they live! Years of conquest and destruction have left their mark on the German landscape, but today they serve as beautiful reminders to those who live nearby. The people are very thankful for what they have because they know how easily it can be taken away.
During WWII, many of the towns we visited, like Manhiem and Cologne, were 80-95% destroyed. Although each city had been completely rebuilt, the people living there still remember the emotions they felt as their city was destroyed, as their national patriotism was taken advantage of by the Nazi regime, and what it took to rebuild in the years following the war. However, after these experiences, the German people have become incredible stewards of the resources God has given them!
I was amazed as each of our guides talked about how much the people care about one another, how they all cooperate to care for the land and protect their environment, and how they allow their cultural history to help shape their collective actions in the present. To be honest, I was shocked by the ways the German and American culture differed, and frankly I got good and convicted.
Now, I don’t want to start any political or socioeconomic arguments, nor do I wish to make any large generalities about any particular country, but I do want to speak on a few particular thoughts and what the Lord has put on my heart.
I was reminded of the widows offering in Mark 12, where the widow threw just two copper coins in the offering amid the large offerings being given around her. “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.'” This woman gave everything she had, out of her thankfulness and reverence for her God, and I got the same feeling from the people we met in Germany. Now, I’m not saying they weren’t wealthy, but I did see a thankfulness in the people based on the resources they had that they were willing to give their time, money, support and care to protect their country and the people who live there. This love and thankfulness was a beautiful motivator in how they lived their lives, and it was evident in the cities and landscapes they inhabit. Not one piece of trash on the floor in any major city, every field and forest was meticulously maintained, they want to switch to all green energy so as to not pollute their country, they are willing to give more so that every German citizen will be cared for, they take in foreign citizens who need help, and they make a point to remind everyone of their past history so this feeling of thankfulness isn’t lost.
Again, all political arguments aside, I was convicted. Not because we don’t give as Americans, or that we don’t care about one another, because that’s not true. However, scrolling through social media I’m always surprised by the kind of individualistic propaganda we tend to gravitate towards as Americans – that it doesn’t matter what anyone else says as long as you’re happy; Or that you need to “do you” and anyone who doesn’t support that is against you. I’ve seen these messages in many forms and variations across my news feed, and to be honest I had often given into it. And what is shocking, is the way this doctrine leads to greater unhappiness. I began pitting myself against others who disagreed with me, I used my resources in ways that only served my purposes, and I became fervently protective of my money and would only give, not what I was able, but what I was willing to part with. I became more alone, more unhappy, and more focused on trying to build more happiness but it never got better. It only got worse. What is worse is that living in an individualistic culture also affects the way we view and apply the gospel. It makes us focus on our own hearts and relationship with Christ but disconnects us from our relationship with the rest of the body of Christ. Our view of others as not as worthy as us, or that our walk with the Lord is more important, divides the church, and it stops us from reaching out and sharing the gospel.
I was convicted in my own walk. I have often allowed the cultural message of individualism to affect my relationship with the Lord and others, and it has affected the way I use my resources to the glory of God. Things that we consider common in our culture can often have a profound impact on how we apply the gospel, and my prayer is that we as the body of Christ seek to show Christ globally, irregardless of what culture we live in. We must allow the gospel message to create a culture that reflects Christ and Him crucified, which can be applied to every person, nation, and tradition.
Our view of others as not as worthy as us, or that our walk with the Lord is more important, divides the church, and it stops us from reaching out and sharing the gospel.