When we choose cross-cultural marriage, we have chosen to become people on a bridge between divides. Whether we like or not. Whether we meant to or not, we no longer “fit” easily into the cultural norms for individual groups.
One of the areas where this reality seems to be most challenging for many couples is church. Unfortunately.
We’re all familiar with the situation. That often quoted, heart-breaking statement about the most segregated hour of the week.
While many of us are connecting in at congregations with space for us all, most of us are admitting that we will not grow old in congregations similar to those in which we were raised. There’s the reality that we’ve chosen a third way.
Multicultural families are standing on the bridge between cultures, reminding us that there is another way to love God together.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m still moving through the book Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. Over and over again, I’ve been amazed when it’s pointed out how my cultural background has influenced my understanding of the Bible. My marriage has opened by eyes countless times to this same truth and has served to expand my view of God.
When we talk about racial division or reconciliation in the church, we often hear how its an opportunity for the church to be a witness in a world that hurts and wounds one another in the area of race. And I believe that. It is certainly an opportunity to testify to God’s restorative power and the call to unity.
So maybe I’m just selfish, but over time, I have been drawn back to multicultural faith because I have seen that when I only worship with those who are like me, I only see one sliver of such a big God. I have found so much awe and peace in the fullness of God. And I have discovered so much excitement and adventure in the the reality that after spending my whole life seeking God, there is more of God to know.
Perhaps the best way to collate my thoughts is to say that I see both individual and collective benefits to pursuing a more diverse body of Christ. For me, I come to know God in new and powerful ways. For the body, we experience God’s redemption of pain unleashed by the fall.
So what do we do to bridge these divides? After all, everyone and their mother has been talking about this topic for quite some time.
Well, I won’t claim to have the perfect answer. My response is simply to make the first move. Go to a church that’s different from how you grew up. It doesn’t have to be a total 180. I think for many of us, something too far outside our comfort zone won’t be sustainable.
In my experience, I’ve been to a couple churches that actually had much in common with my church of origin. The main difference was the background of the congregants, and I was moved by some of the ways their experiences influenced their faith.
We cannot sit back and claim to be ready for unity. We cannot simply say we are waiting for “everyone else” to desire unity. What is often the underlying message there is that we want unity when it means that others come to us.
We must walk humbly, step out and join our brothers and sisters. We must choose to bridge the divide. And sometimes it may mean a bit of loss: pieces of our identity, our traditions, or even letting go of some of the ways we believe when presented with a different view of our God.
Still, I believe that God desires for the Church to be united. And we must take that first step onto the bridge.
Where do you see divides in the church? What steps are you taking to build bridges?
This post is part of the April 2014 Synchroblog: Bridging the Divide. Here is the full list of posts: