Jenny Fulton is a special guest author on More Reason to Write today. Her brand new heart-tugging children's book, just released, helps children come to terms with the tough topic of death and eternal life in a tender and understandable way. Welcome Jenny, the author of Princess Lillian and Grandpa's Goodbye.
The Gospel and Cultural Diversity
by Jenny Fulton
Conversations about diversity, race, and inclusion seem to be everywhere. Is there room for these discussions within Christianity? What does God think about these matters?
Is there such as thing as one Christian culture that looks the same no matter where you are in the world?
Does converting to Christianity require that a person turn their back on everything related to their culture?
Does cultural diversity have any place in the kingdom of God?
From Genesis to Revelation, here are some scriptural passages and reasonings that can guide these discussions and have led me to my conclusions on these matters.
Reaching the World
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1, NASB
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world.” – Psalm 19:1-4, NASB
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20, NASB
God longs for us to see and know him. Perhaps for this reason, when he created the physical world, He poured Himself into it. He put his character on display throughout the entire earth. The sky speaks of his beauty and never-ending presence. Storms display his strength and power. Stars speak of how much God cares for each individual in the midst of countless others. The Sun tells of God’s desire and ability to bring light and life. Water describes his refreshing, life-giving presences. By means of the heaven and earth God created, he reaches out to everyone in every culture and beckons them to himself.
Foreign Followers of God
Genesis records a lineage of righteous people stemming from Adam to Abraham. For his divine purposes, God singled out a specific group of middle eastern people to work with. Through them, he would display his character to the rest of the world, bring forth the Messiah, and complete his greatest act of salvation.
However, that doesn’t mean God excluded those who were not of this people. Genesis 14:17-20 records Abraham’s interactions with a foreign king as he was traveling through the land his descendants would one day inherit.
“And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.” – Genesis 14:18, NASB.
In the midst of the land that God would one day give to Abraham’s descendants was a king who followed God. He reigned over a city that would one day be renamed Jerusalem. Although Melchizedek wasn’t part of “God’s chosen people,” he was chosen by God to serve him in a special way. Did the culture in Salem look exactly the same as it did among Abraham’s family? Not likely. But they served the same God. Melchizedek’s significance shows up again in the book of Hebrews (5-7).
Other foreigners in the Old Testament who followed God include King Nebuchadnezzar of the Chaldeans, King Darius of the Medes and Persians, and the entire city of Nineveh (from the time they repented in Jonah to when they returned to evil and God destroyed them).
Foreigners in the Lineage of Christ
The first chapter of Matthew is one of two places in which the lineage of Christ is recorded. In this account, four foreign women are mentioned.
Tamar was a Canaanite who followed the customs of the day to produce an heir for Judah and security for herself. Her actions were deemed righteous.
Rahab was a harlot in Jericho who recognized God’s hand at work in the land, lied to city officials, saved the lives of Israelite spies, and lived out her life with the Israelites. She is mentioned in Hebrews 11 in the “Hall of Faith.”
Ruth was a Moabite woman who left her home to follow Naomi back the land of Israel. “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”
Bathsheba was first married to Uriah the Hittite, a man who proved himself to be more righteous than the king at that time. While it doesn’t specifically say if Bathsheba was an Israelite or not, she was married to one.
The relevance of these women to this discussion is this: God was already proving his love for people of all nations and including them in his story. Although he warned the Israelites countless times not to marry foreign women who would cause them to turn after other gods, the emphasis was on the second part (turn after foreign gods) rather than the first (marry foreign women).
The Jews and the Gentiles and Allowable Differences
According to the people of Jesus’ day, there were two groups of people. The Jews and everyone else, a.k.a. the Gentiles. The book of Acts records the Holy Spirit’s movement from God’s Chosen People to everyone else whom God also loved.
· At Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they shared the Gospel in the language of every Jew who was in Jerusalem.
· In Acts 8, Philip was sent to an Ethiopian eunuch who was searching for the truth. After explaining the Gospel and baptizing him, Philip was taken away and the Ethiopian court official continued on his way.
· Acts 10 records the account of the Roman centurion Cornelius who desired to follow God. Before bringing Peter to visit, God gave this loyal apostle a vision in which he showed Peter that following the Jewish food customs weren’t a necessary part of living out the Gospel. Whereas Jewish culture dictated that their people shouldn’t associate or eat with Gentiles, God showed Peter that in his kingdom, this wasn’t the case.
· When Peter shared God’s word with the Gentiles in Caesarea, “ the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”
· After Saul converted to Christianity and became the apostle Paul, God sent him to minister to the Gentiles. The Gentile version of Christianity didn’t look like the Jewish version. They didn’t follow the Jewish laws and customs.
· In Acts 15, a council was held in Jerusalem to discuss the cultural differences and practices among the two groups. Were these differences allowable or not? Could there be cultural differences within the body of believers? After a great deal of discussion, the council wrote a letter with their conclusions. “...“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.””
· 1 Corinthians continues this look at look at different practices within the body of believers. Paul’s conclusion: different practices are allowable as long as they remain within God’s moral absolutes and are done from a place of faith.
“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do ainstinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,” – Romans 2:14
Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind
So, does converting to Christianity require that a person turn their back on everything related to their culture?
According to Acts and 1 Corinthians (and other places), there are cultural elements which are neutral and allowable. The Roman centurion didn’t stop being a Roman or a centurion. However, his faith dictated what kind of Roman centurion he became.
However, every culture, every walk of life, has some aspects that don’t line up with God’s heart and mind. God calls all of us, from every nation and culture, to come away from that which isn’t good, from that which doesn’t reflect his character, and to draw closer to him in our hearts, minds, and actions.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may dprove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
From Every Nation
God is not limited to one culture and one nation. His Gospel isn’t for only one group of people. Instead, his love reaches through all of creation. It stretches into the cultures, languages, and practices of all people and calls everyone to follow him.
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;” – Revelation 7:9, NASB
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” – Romans 1:16, NASB
What Do You Think?
I pray these passages may guide discussions. I’d love to know what you think and any question you have, so let me know in the comments below.
About the Book:
Can two worlds exist at the same time?
Little Princess Lillian learns the spiritual world can interact with the physical. Imaginary is used to explain a reality, how heaven reaches down to earth as a young girl observes her grandpa awaiting his entrance into his eternal home.
How do you explain death and heaven to a child?
Led through a long hall in a hospital, Princess Lillian holds her mom's hand as an angel whispers comforting words.
Incorporating bits of Native American and Christian tradition, an intimate celebration of a loved one's passing occurs as a family says good-bye to a man eager to meet his best friend, the King Above All Nations.
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is a wife, mother, children's book author, YA fantasy author, blogger, and
freelance writer with a B.S. in Bible, a B.S. in elementary education, and an
endorsement in K-12 ESL. After graduating from Grace University in 2007, Jenny
worked as a teacher in a variety of cultural and educational settings, both
abroad and in the United States. She is a storyteller, a follower of Christ, and
a seeker of truth.
An enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, Jenny grew up hearing stories from her dad about the supernatural workings on the Navajo Reservation. Her days are now mostly spent raising her three young daughters (homeschooling two of them) and writing as much as time and opportunity allows.
Jenny is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Faithwriters.com, and is an author with Capture Books.
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