Sitting in the dirt

Respect, “sitting in the dirt”

WHAT DO YOU THINK is the greatest cultural barrier, apart from language, that we must cross to disciple the unreached?

I come from the privileged world. I grew up with access to a good education and a comfortable lifestyle but most of the unreached peoples we want to disciple are poor and marginalised.

It’s so easy for me to imagine that I’m superior to my unreached friends (in a very godly way of course). It’s equally easy for them to distort our relationship by telling me what they think I want to hear, behaving with feigned respect while their hearts are far away or reacting with quiet anger at the world I seem to represent.

The Gospel doesn’t travel well from the ‘superior’ to the ‘inferior’. I need grace to ‘sit in the dirt’ with them. It might mean ‘an emptied pan of caterpillars’ (in Kairos terms), partying with ‘tax-collectors and sinners’ or eating durian. Not with lots of laughter and photos as though it’s a big deal, because to them it isn’t a big deal! It’s just part of our lifestyle, while we pursue deeper relationship, with genuine respect.

I once joined an outreach where we visited some jungle homes, scattered a few tracts and had a short meeting without even sitting down! Then with a cheery wave, we got back into our SUVs and headed off for a restaurant meal in our privileged world.

Is this a barrier only for white people going to non-white cultures? Elite Asians and Africans battle the same issues. I have watched the distaste on the faces of townies visiting jungle villages of their own ethnic group and seen middle class believers treat their own poor like dogs. I have sensed them cringe at sitting in the dirt.

But when I find that grace, my perspective changes. I imagine those children shivering in a corner of their mud hut during a thunderstorm while the rain pours through the thatching; that emaciated lady, lying on the mud floor, trembling with malaria and no one to fetch food; that student who excelled in school but couldn’t pay the bribe to get into college. How do centuries of injustice and suffering affect how one hears the Good News?
As I sit in the dirt and cuddle their grubby kids, I look into their eyes with profound respect and admiration for their quiet dignity, victorious attitude and warm welcome. To be truthful, I can’t live in that dirt with them. They know that; yet, as I sit there, I sense their perspective changing. Through my persistent respect, their hearts soften to Jesus – and He is Immanuel. He can live with them.

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