Here’s a Missionary’s version of 1st Corinthians 13. It’s not new, but it is a needed reminder to all who have set their vision on reaching others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not to be overlooked is the emphasis of the struggles that we missionaries face, sooner or later, when living in a foreign country.
“1st Corinthians 13: A Guide to Culture”
“If I speak with the tongue of a national, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all mannerisms so that I could pass for a national but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor, and if I spend my energy without reserve, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those how mock its accent; love does not envy those who stayed home; love does not exalt its home culture, is not proud of its national superiority.
Does not boast about the way we do it back home, does not seek its own ways, is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of its home country, does not think evil about this culture;
Love bears all criticism about its home culture, believes all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, endures all inconveniences.
Love never fails: but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail; where there is contextualization it will lead to syncretism; where there is linguistics, it will change.
For we know only part of the culture and we minister to only part.
But when Christ is produced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.
When I was in America I spoke as an American, I understood as an American, I thought as an American; but when I left America I put away American things.
Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly; but He will live in it intimately: now I speak with a strange accent, but He will speak to the heart.
And now these three remain: cultural adaptation, language study and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Pray that missionaries taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to different parts of the world will do so in love.”
Gratefully, Eddie Marshall
A Post Script:
Even after living in Chile for 28 years this reflection of the need for serving in love could not be more true and more necessary. Living in a foreign culture is no longer strange or hard for me. But loving it can sometimes be exasperating. To my family and me Chile is home. The language is a joy, and the people a wonderful pleasure to know and serve. Even still, life in Chile (or is it life in the city of Santiago?) tires and wears on the patience, on the will, and sometimes on the heart.
After all these years it is crystal clear that (this paraphrase reached my hands in 1997) the land I love and the people I have given myself to need to be loved to the Savior. No technological tricks, no ministry experiences, no hard lessons replace the fact that a missionary’s life must be marked constantly by the love of Christ.
I would like to add to this paraphrase one more thing:
“But when Christ is reproduced in me and through me reflected to this culture, then my cultural, personal and theological inadequacies will be overcome by His completed and matchless love.“
May Christ be formed in my life, so that what others see will be only His love in me.
Post Script: by David L. Rogers.