Simon’s Scrawl

Simon’s Scrawl

The topic of this magazine is how the good news

of Jesus Christ engages with different cultures.

In the past Christian missionaries, attempting to

share the gospel, sometimes mistakenly

imposed Western culture upon a local

population. But the gospel can and should

adapt to different cultures, and that’s been

shown by the way in which Christianity has

grown around the world.

The early church was dominated by Jews and

centered in Jerusalem. Later it was dominated

by Greeks and centered around the

Mediterranean. Later the Christian faith was

received by the barbarians of northern Europe

and Christianity came to be dominated by

Western Europeans and then North Americans.

Today most Christians in the world live in Africa,

Latin America and Asia. Christianity will soon be

centered in the southern and the eastern


The contrast with other religions is stark. The

centre of Islam is still in the place of its origin –

the Middle East. Likewise, the original lands that

have been the centre of Hinduism, Buddhism

and Confucianism remain the same.

Why has Christianity been so adaptable? There

are the unchanging core truths of the gospel but

there is a great deal of freedom in how those

truths are expressed and take shape within a

particular culture. For example, the Bible

encourages Christians to unite in acts of musical

praise but it doesn’t dictate the rhythm,

instrumentation, or emotional expressiveness –

all of that is left to be cultural expressed, in a

variety of ways. Such cultural diversity was built

into the Christian faith from the very beginning.

Jesus scandalized his fellow Jews by tearing

through racial and cultural boundaries. For

instance, his famous parable of the Good

Samaritan was shocking to its first hearers

because it cast a despised Samaritan as

the hero! In John Chapter 4 we read about

Jesus’ life-changing conversation with a

Samaritan woman – also shocking because a

Jewish Rabbi would

never engage with a morally-compromised

Samaritan woman, but Jesus didn’t care! Or

rather, he cared deeply about this marginalized

female foreigner.

This diversity of Christianity, kindled by Jesus,

caught fire after his resurrection. Before leaving

his disciples, Jesus commanded them to ‘go and

make disciples of all nations.’ In the Book of

Acts, God’s Spirit enabled them to proclaim

Jesus in many different languages! Moreover

the hyper-Jewish apostle Paul ripped up the

social barriers of his day – he wrote to the

Galatians ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave

nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in

Christ Jesus’.

Contrary to popular opinion then, Christianity is

not a Western religion that destroys local

cultures. Rather Christianity is more culturally

diverse than any other faith. Wonderfully, the

last book of the Bible paints a picture of the end

of time when ‘a great multitude that no one

and language’ will worship Jesus. That has

always been the multicultural vision of

Christianity. So if you care about diversity don’t

dismiss Christianity! It is the most diverse, multi-

ethnic and multicultural movement in all of