"Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness." (Psalm 37:3)
Is it Biblical or Cultural?
We do not realize it, but most of us bring our own ideas and culture into our Christianity.
We mix biblical truths with societal views and think that they are the same. For a missionary to succeed and “dwell in the land” where God has called them, they must learn to differentiate between what is biblical and what is cultural. For most missionaries this starts when they begin seeing the glaring differences between the culture they just moved to and their own. It is so easy to see the faults and inconsistencies in a new culture while being blind to one’s own.
It is a major adjustment for missionaries to learn to trust the Lord by dwelling in the land God has called them to. Too often missionaries will label something ”wrong” in reference to the way things work in a particular country. It is true that different cultures do things differently. But “different” does not necessarily mean “wrong.” When missionaries start saying things like, “In my country…” they are headed for trouble. Whether intended or not, these sentiments tend to build walls and alienate people. They denigrate the national Christians, making them feel like second-class citizens in the kingdom of God.
Finding Lasting Joy on the Field
Missionaries must learn to embrace the differences, to be open to understanding different cultural perspectives, and in doing so, they may even discover some glaring inconsistencies in their own culture’s spin on Christianity. The longer the missionary “dwells in the land” (Psalm 37:3) and learns to trust the Lord to change him or her while serving others, the more joy the missionary will experience through the differences. Christianity is like a beautiful diamond that reflects the many facets of God’s greatness. Our differences add to the beauty and give opportunity for “different” people to meet Jesus.
The Heart Test
Dwelling in the land where God has called you is an important missions principle. In order to reach people we must get close to them. That means learning a new language and a new culture. That means learning to appreciate and find joy in that culture. Too many missionaries are trying to be in a foreign land but their heart is still dwelling in their homeland. This will never work. We must go to the people, just as Christ became one of us. Being a missionary, by its very definition, requires humility and sacrifice. A missionary is simply a common person forgiven by the grace of God, learning to walk humbly before Him, with a heart and a calling to make Him known to others.