(With our January 7 trip to India nearly here, I thought I’d run some blogs about one of the most basic theological differences between Indian culture and ours. I have found this VERY helpful in knowing how to better communicate the Gospel to those from different cultural backgrounds.)
Each culture has its own individual way of looking at life: how they interpret what happens, set values and priorities and know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. This is their particular way of viewing life and the world. It is their world view.
It covers all areas of life: how we view suffering and pain, the way we handle what is unfair, our definition of success and failure, traits we look for in friends and mates, the value we put on money and possessions, choices and decisions we have to make, the way we face circumstances that are out of our control and how we view our relationship with God.
Traditionally those in their country have viewed life from a right-wrong perspective. We make value judgments on everything that happens. We view live through a guilt-innocence grid. When a marriage fails we wonder who was at fault. When a business fails we want to know who is to blame. If we are swimming in a public pool and the lifeguard blows his whistle everyone looks to see who has done something wrong. In school when little Johnny is called to the principal’s office over the intercom everyone wonders what he did that got him in trouble. When driving down the road and a red light starts flashing in the rear window, our first thought is if we have done something wrong. Then when the police car passes us we watch to see who was guilty.
When something unfair happens to innocent people we want to know whose fault it is, who is to blame. If we can’t find a person who is at fault then we blame God. That’s why we are often wondering how God can allow a child to suffer or something unfair to happen to someone. Our world view sees everything on a guilt-innocence paradigm.
We all want to be innocent of any wrong. “I’m OK and you’re OK” is our rallying call. We tell ourselves that we are as good as the next guy. Speakers and books assure us we are fine just as we are. We’re all about right and wrong, guilt and innocence.
This perspective of viewing life comes from our legal system, which is the foundation of our country. As Americans we are obsessed with fairness and justice, with the rights of the individual and everyone meeting their potential. This forms the backbone of our society.
It’s not surprising, then, that we view salvation through the same colored glasses. We are guilty and God is innocent. He is right and we are wrong. We sin and are guilty before Him. Jesus took our sin and guilt on the cross and paid the penalty for it so we can be innocent again. Accept His gift of salvation and we’ll be pure and clean again. We illustrate this with the story of the judge who must uphold the law and exact the penalty on a friend who has no means to pay the fine he owes. So the judge leaves the bench, takes off his robes, comes down and stands by the man and pays his fine for him. That is what God did for us. It can be seen almost like a business transaction.
We find this detailed in the book of Romans, the favorite Bible book of American evangelicals. From it we get the Romans Road and the Four Spiritual Laws – clearly legal terms explaining a legal transaction. It shouldn’t surprise us that we identify so clearly with the book of Romans for our legal system and much of our government is based on theirs. Their world view is now our world view. When Paul wrote to them he explained salvation in terms they would understand – guilt and innocence.
But not all cultures see the world and life from that slant. Rome did, as do English-speaking and European countries today. The rest of the world see life through other grids, though. Israel, for example, had an entirely different world view which is seen in most of the Bible.
Take the Gospels for example: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We call them ‘gospels’ but can you find the gospel in the gospels? Can you use them to lead someone to salvation? It’s very hard to find our legal right-wrong, guilt-innocence paradigm in them. Jesus doesn’t talk about guilt, legal payment and innocence regained. Yet many people come to salvation just reading those accounts.
Jesus focused on living the Christian life, and that really isn’t part of our guilt-to-innocence transaction. In fact, the church is often weak in countries with a guilt-based world view because it doesn’t speak to the fact of what happens after salvation. Many Christians feel that once they have invested in their eternal life-insurance they have all they need and go back to life as they lived it before. Often we relegate living the Christian life to something unrelated to salvation, but Jesus talked about living for Him as being part of salvation. So what’s the deal?
Next blog will look at another world view, the paradigm the Jews in Bible times used to view life around them.
Ps 38:1-4 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. 2 For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me. 3 Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin. 4 My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
Think of a time in your life when you felt guilt. What did you do about it?
If it weren’t for Jesus, what could you have done about it?
Is there anything you feel guilty about now? Admit it is sin and turn it over to God. Accept His forgiveness. Forgive yourself. If you need to make things with with someone else do so right away.