Africans demand power and Westerners look for comfort
Paul, the apostle of Jesus, may have described himself as “as Jewish as you get” but he actually grew up in a Greek-speaking Jewish community outside his ethnic homeland and that gave him a very helpful cross-cultural perspective.
What was better? Greek philosophy? Jewish traditions? A blend of the two?
Like many young men in that kind of situation it really looks like he was radicalised, but then abruptly de-radicalised (or re-radicalised?) by Jesus. And so he ended up not just picking one or the other or mixing the two, but able to critique both cultures, both communities’ problems with Jesus:
1 Corinthians 1:22-25, NIV
Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
What drives the societies and communities you know?
Let me adapt the above, from my experience of living in Africa as a British Christian.
Africans demand power and Westerners look for comfort, safety and security, but we preach Christ crucified, powerlessness to Africans and irresponsibly dangerous extremism to westerners, but to those whom God has called, both Africans and Westerners, Christ actually achieves something lasting and meaningful and gives a much better comfort safety and security than people are looking for. After all, the irresponsible and risky behaviour of God is safer and more responsible than human safeguards, and the weakness of God is stronger than the all the illusions of power people concoct.
The point isn’t to compare Africans with Jews or Westerners with Greeks; that doesn’t really matter and isn’t fruitful. It’s better to consider how the longings and obsessions of each culture fall short of the gospel but find ultimate satisfaction in Christ. We’re often asking the wrong questions — “How can I get power or revenge on my enemies, or prestige above my opponents?” or “How can I be safe and secure, comfortable and accepted?” — but the crucified Christ improves the question and gives us the real answer.
Honestly, there is more fruitful ground to sow the gospel message in Africa than in the West at the moment, and we don’t help Africans if we preach Westernism, so as long as we are helping people connect with the eternal good news of Jesus, I consider that this very good news shows it is in fact a sensible and reasonable and necessary thing to endure the light and momentary inconveniences and troubles, and bear the ‘irresponsibility’ of bringing up a family outside of the comforts or securities of the West.
I would write more but I need to help with a check of a translation of Genesis into meaningful language…