Strangers and Foreigners

Hebrews 11

“They saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.”

I spent my childhood as a stranger and foreigner in a land other than my own. Though I spoke the language, loved the food, and had many friends in Mexico, I was different. Not only did I look different, with my blond hair and blue eyes, but I grew up reading US books and watching US movies. I grew up with US parents who instilled US values in me. I grew up with heroes who were rugged individualist, who left behind family and friends to follow their dreams; and at age seven I was ready to grow up, move away, and create my own way in the world; much to the confusion of my Mexican friend who intended to stay near her parents so as to care for them as they grew older.

Perhaps because I grew up in two cultures I am aware of how differently people from other cultures view the world. As an American in Mexico I would state the obvious only to have my friends contradict me; or I would shake my head at the impossibility of what they saw as common sense. The differences were deeper than skin level; there was a whole different world undergirding what they were saying. This is what culture is: It is our basic understanding of how the world works, what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false, what is ugly and what is beautiful (Hiebert, Paul. Transforming Worldviews. Pg25). Most culture is so deeply ingrained in us that it simply feels like common sense. As a modern person I “know” that the world is primarily physical and operates under mechanical natural laws of cause and effect. If the rain falls and the sun shines in right proportions and I planted my seeds with adequate fertilizer my garden should grow…it would never occur to me to sacrifice a chicken to make sure that the garden spirits were happy…that’s not how the world works. And yet I have talked to people who have watched a rain dance produce rain and witchcraft destroy crops as spiritual forces interacted with the physical world.

Culture is so unconscious to us that it is nearly impossible for us to tell when our culture is lying to us. We read our Bibles through the lens of our culture; often mixing culture and Bible into a religious concoction that is partly true and partly false. We make Biblical truth subservient to our cultural values, justifying those things that the culture believes because we are not able to see the lies that rationalize the culture.

There is a culture that is completely different from any culture of the world; it is the culture of the Kingdom of God. My basic definition of culture is, “our basic understanding of how the world works, what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false, what is ugly and what is beautiful.” We make our choices and live our lives on the basis of these underlying structures. By this definition, there is a unique culture belonging to the kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus we share basic assumptions about the nature and functioning of the universe; God himself has offered his values: what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, what is ugly and what is beautiful.

The purpose of this blog is to read through the Bible looking for God’s culture. I am going to be asking: 1) What does this say about how the universe operates; 2) what does it say about what is true and false, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly; and 3) how ought we to live on the basis of these values and beliefs.