When cultures clash… lessons from the Bible
In a diverse and interconnected world, clashes between cultures are not uncommon. These clashes can result from differences in beliefs, values, practices, and even language. Such clashes can be challenging to navigate and may lead to tension, misunderstanding, and conflict. However, as we look to the Bible, we can learn valuable lessons on how to handle cultural differences and conflicts effectively.
One example of a clash of cultures is the story of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. The Samaritans were considered outcasts by the Jews because of their mixed heritage and religious practices. However, Jesus disregarded these cultural barriers and engaged in a conversation with the woman, leading to her salvation and the conversion of many Samaritans.
Similarly, the Bethany Church in Manchester is an example of a multicultural and multigenerational church that has faced challenges related to cultural differences. The church comprises people from various ethnicities, languages, and cultures, leading to differences in worship styles, traditions, and expectations. These differences have resulted in tension and conflicts that have threatened the unity and effectiveness of the church.
However, just as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, the church has learned to embrace and celebrate its diversity, recognizing that cultural differences are an asset rather than a liability. The church has created opportunities for people to learn from each other’s cultures, building bridges and fostering understanding.
The church has also learned to prioritize love, forgiveness, and reconciliation in its relationships, as taught in the Bible. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus teaches that if we are offering our gift at the altar and remember that our brother has something against us, we should leave our gift and go and be reconciled to our brother first. Similarly, the church has learned that it is more important to prioritize healthy relationships and unity than individual preferences or cultural norms.
Furthermore, the church has embraced the biblical principle of servant leadership, recognizing that leadership is not about power or control but about serving others. In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul writes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” This principle has been critical in helping the church navigate cultural differences, as leaders have prioritized the needs and interests of others over their own.