You may have a very clear understanding of the Christian gospel. But how is the same gospel message received by people whose cultural experience is different to yours?
It is thought that there are three major cultural groups of the world: guilt-innocence, shame-honour and fear-power. Jayson Georges describes these in more depth in his book ‘The 3D Gospel’*. The culture you were born into affects the way in which you understand God’s gift of salvation. So the way we explain the gospel from our own background may not be as clear to someone who has been shaped by another.
In broad terms, the guilt-innocence culture can be classed as largely Western, the shame-honour culture largely Eastern, and the fear-power culture as having animistic roots and often tribal.
There is no right or wrong way here; it’s easy to see how different cultures will emphasise different parts of the gospel story.
Paul knew this when he wrote, ‘to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God [power], that they may receive forgiveness of sins [innocence] and a place among those who are sanctified by faith [honour] in me (Jesus)’ (Acts 26:18). These three strands never work in isolation but are given greater prominence in one culture or another. Which is what makes the Bible such a remarkable book and why it is so important to base our mission on the whole of Scripture, not our own cultural response to it.
It also shows us how careful we need to be when taking the gospel into a culture other than our own. It’s always the same gospel but how it meets the deepest longings in other people’s lives will always be different. In this age of global travel and multi-cultural communities this is going to become more of a challenge – and an opportunity.
*The 3D Gospel by Jayson Georges published by Timē Press 2017
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