Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.Colossian 3:11
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.Ephesians 2:19
Birds of a feather tend to flock together. We tend to build relationships with, and prefer to serve people, like ourselves. But Jesus came to mix things up—leading his people to cross geographic, cultural, ethnic, religious and socio-economic lines for the sake of community and service. The first century world was as divided as our own, yet God’s Spirit brought about spiritual community between “Jews … Gentiles … Scythians.” (Col 3:11)
The Free Burma Rangers documentary beautifully catalogues the way God turns “foreigners and strangers” (Eph 2:19) into friends. First, an American family relocates to Asia where they are warmly received by vulnerable Burmese people. Then twenty years later, the Free Burma Rangers are sent by God to go serve in the Middle East, where they are warmly received by vulnerable Arabic people. We can learn three valuable lessons in cross-cultural ventures from them:
Our service in one culture may qualify us to serve another culture. What the Burmese team have done in Burma—documenting human rights abuses, and treating casualties—they find they can also do in Iraq. And though none of them realized it in the years they focused on Burma, God was equipping them with the very skills they would need to serve in Iraq, and later Syria too.
It’s natural to feel a little afraid about crossing lines. Eliya, who had never crossed cultural lines like this before, admitted to being a little afraid. Yet after he prayed, he experienced God opening the door for him, and he was happy to walk through it and serve a people very different to him. “No matter the obstacles or danger, we knew we had to help,” says Dave. Similarly, if we are to experience radical freedom and take our faith to the frontlines, each of us must choose love over comfort. If we prefer comfort, we will stay with what we know. But if we prefer love, then we will allow love to drive out fear, and go to people and places we don’t know. Focusing on our comfort will reduce our reach and our growth. Focusing on love will enlarge our impact and the size of our hearts.
When people experience God sending them people from other cultures, it can soften their hearts. The presence of these Burmese medics and cameramen radically impacts Iraqi soldiers like Muhammed and Hussein. That people would leave their own families and frontlines to come and serve them leads Hussein to declare, “We now know Iraq is not alone.” Similarly, whenever God sends us across lines to serve someone, they are more likely to grasp the reality of God’s large-hearted goodness and grace.
- In what ways, if any, have you served one group of people that may allow you to serve other kinds of people in the future?
- Have you ever experienced the power of a diverse people coming together around a common cause or around Christ?
- What lines are you still afraid to cross? Take these fears to God in prayer now.