Are You Normal?
Do you think you’re normal? Well, most of us do! When we look at how we do things and why, it all makes perfect sense! We appear the same as those around us and we even talk the same. This familiarity is what culture looks like! As you narrow the field even smaller, you’ll see that within your own circle of friends or “subculture” you’ll even have similar ideologies and world-views. We’re kind of a result of those around us! So who exactly is normal?
Everything you do is filtered through your own cultural lens. This applies to how you talk, the food you eat, the clothes you wear and yes, even your sense of humor! So many things about who you are and what you consider “normal” are programmed in you by your cultural upbringing and environment.
I’m a New Yorker. I love where I was born and raised! I don’t always like the political stance of the Empire State, but I love its people because I can identify with them! I’m the kind of guy that will wear a NY Yankees hat even if I don’t follow baseball. They’re from NY, what’s not to like?! My culture let’s me find an identity with people who are just like me.
However, what happens when we meet people who are different? How do we handle those with contrasting, cultural backgrounds that don’t talk like us, look like us or that can’t even appreciate our genuine sense of humor? We need to take care that we don’t label these differing cultural views as wrong, or from a Christian’s point of view as unbiblical, simply because it doesn’t fit within our very small and narrow box of all things familiar.
Taking a short term trip to another country around the world is a great way to enlarge your cultural world view! Not only will you notice vast differences in one’s day to day living but you’ll also see what makes Christianity different within these unique people groups. Some of these differences will seem huge while others will remind you of what you left back home. The benefit of this perspective is that you get to appreciate how other people do things outside your bubble of American Christianity.
It’s important to note that as Christians, our lives should be guided by a set of core beliefs from the Bible. These are not loose principles that are open to private interpretation but rather very specific ones that govern our worldviews and actions. A Christian’s core beliefs are shared by all true believers around the world, and they transcend cultural and political boundaries. These should never change nor be compromised.
However, there are times when we fail to differentiate these core beliefs from personal culture and we end up with an opinion that the God wants everyone to be just like us. That our brand of Christianity is the only one that matters. Remember, our uniqueness and cultural relevance is not what the American church is commissioned by God to duplicate. But rather, it’s our faith and the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is purpose for which we were called to be disciples.
So whether you’re reaching out to people in the heart of Africa or on the streets of New York, preach the Gospel without compromising your core values from the Scriptures. But be mindful that this small, blue planet is home to many different types of people, most of which are very different from what you’re accustomed to.
You may or may not be normal. I don’t know if anyone is. But I do know that we each have a part to play in God’s redemptive plan.