Just be yourself.
Embrace who you are.
Own your story.
Let me be me.
I am free to be me.
This way of thinking is popular in American culture today. We allow great latitude for ourselves to be at home in our own skins and others to be themselves without judgment.
In light of this American cultural value, a statement by John Eldridge, written in his devotional Restoration Year, recently caught my attention:
“Let Jesus be Himself with you.”
I wonder if we give God the same latitude and tolerance that we give ourselves and others. Do we silently or verbally demand and expect Him to be a certain way? Do we consider God worthy of our attention only when and if He holds to our exact values?
But stop and think: Shouldn’t tolerance and acceptance go both ways?! Do you allow Jesus to own His story and be Himself? Do you let Jesus be Himself with you and others?
Let’s take a slight turn and apply Eldridge’s thinking to missions.
I have met many Asians in different parts of the world who initially believed that Jesus was an American or European. This is most unfortunate when we consider Jesus was born and raised in Asia. I believe this confusion among Asians and other cultural groups happens because cross-cultural Christian workers and visitors bring their cultural and personal version of Jesus and Christianity to these groups. In this case, we rob other cultural groups of being with Jesus as He is and Jesus from being Himself with them.
As we consider this, I think it helps to take a God-honoring step back, breathe, and evaluate whether we are spreading a Euro-American Jesus and a Euro-Americanized Christianity. If so, how could we approach cross-cultural missions in ways that let Jesus be Himself with the people we live and serve?
In your cultural context, ask this question and adapt your statregies and actions accordingly:
What would it look like if Jesus is Himself with the __________(name of cultural group)__________?