Multiculturalism in Christian Perspective
As early as historic records have been kept, humans have been faced with the relocation of people and the occupation of homelands by stronger tribal or national groups. This is demonstrated by the records of Egyptian and Babylonian expansion, the exploits of Alexander the Great and the growth of the Roman Empire. Some of the struggles associated with this are reflected in the Bible. For example, when the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah encouraged them to work and live there, adapting to their new situation but still preserving their religious faith as they continued to pray for their deliverance and return to their own land. The Old Testament law, however, instructs the Jews to strictly enforce the Jewish religious regulations even for foreigners living in their land (Exodus 12:19, 48; Exodus 20:10). And the Jews struggled to maintain their Jewish distinctiveness in a foreign land. Paul’s suggested method for reaching people with the gospel was remarkably different. He tried to understand the customs and practices of those he hoped to influence, becoming like the people he wanted to reach. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). Paul went to them-the essence of the idea of mission-but today the multicultural climate has brought the ethnic and cultural mix to us. Differing forms of worship, ritual practices, rites of passage and even religious attire are no longer the stories of foreign lands and mission fields; they are part of the multicultural community. To apply Paul’s principle today, we must learn as much as possible about the culture of our neighbors in order to live alongside them and present the gospel. Debate rages today about how to do this without falling into relativism on the one hand or exclusivism on the other. The values, the worldview and the religious belief of my neighbor may include ways to salvation outside of...
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