8 minute read
Do you think in centimeters or inches? Celsius or Fahrenheit? Why? Because that’s how you were raised. I think my generation is kind of at an intersection between the two in Canada, as I remember my parents referring to the imperial system growing up, but learning the metric system in school. Currently I live in a country where it’s all metric, but work with a lot of Americans, who, well, have a hard time converting despite being in the minority. It’s quite amazing how certain things stick in our brains simply through environment and repetition.
As humans, we are resistant to change. Take something as insignificant as a store name for example. Maybe a local shop changes ownership. However most people in the neighborhood will still stubbornly or subconsciously continue referring to the old name, much to the confusion of newcomers. I’ve often wondered if it will take an entire generation for that new shop to be called by the name on its current sign, only to be continued onto the next even when that sign changes again.
These small examples are a microcosm of our faith and worldview. In North America we might refer to denominations. For example if someone was raised United or Episcopalian, they may have very different views of God, church and society than someone who was raised Baptist or Pentecostal. Now let’s expand that even further. Someone growing up in a primarily Buddhist country will have radically different views not only of society or worship, but the very nature of God and humanity.
So how and why does ‘conversion’ take place? And what does it look like? In reality it’s very likely that most people will remain in a faith tradition similar to what they were raised with, or if they change religions, will still interpret or practice much of their faith in ways that somehow connect or resonate with those deeply ingrained traditional values. And yet, we have a God who surpasses tradition, culture and even the language in our brains. We have a God who meets us where we’re at, and transforms lives.
Let’s go back to the temperature illustration for minute. As a good Canadian kid, I remember the rule for whether or not I could wear shorts to school was if it was 10 degrees Celsius by 8am. This is shocking to my Taiwanese counterparts who are bundling in their thickest down coats if the temperature dips below 20. And now that I’ve been here for over a decade, I do feel 10 degrees as cold. Climate differences aside, I find this concept fascinating. The number on the thermometer is absolute. It doesn’t change. It is the truth. It is 10 degrees outside in Canada and in Taiwan and in New Zealand and in Michigan. However, our experience of that is very different depending on our context. We all see the world through lenses we may not even be aware of. And I absolutely believe some things are true and unchanging, like God. And yet.
Experiences of the divine are different. Interpretations of how to live out one’s faith are different. Theories of what exactly Jesus did on the cross are different. But one thing never changes: He did it for us as a great act of divine power, love, mercy and redemption.
It can be hard for us to discern what is tradition and what is truth. But it is so worth it to hold space for other views and look for the reality, the truth, the principle behind and through all experiences of the divine. Lending validity to the story of others is a starting point for communication, and maybe even conversion. We may even find ourselves inspired by the richness of other traditions while still living out of the truth of who we are and what we believe about God.
Charlotte is on the Editorial team at boldcupofcoffee.com and currently works with a non-profit organization in Taiwan where she teaches, leads English Bible studies, writes educational materials, trains teachers, poses for pictures, and a bunch of other stuff too. She is originally from Canada, spending significant amounts of time in all three westernmost provinces and the idea of home has become quite fluid. She has learned that life overseas is not as exotic as people may think, but life with God is a daily adventure.
CONNECT WITH US
SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL
Privacy: We hate spam as much as you, so we will never share your e-mail address with anyone.
SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOGS RSS FEED
AND GET ARTICLE UPDATES