It is common for people living in cultures foreign to them to at some point get a bit frustrated. Things are not like they are used to, and this makes them uncomfortable. Having spent most of my adult life living in a culture other than the one I grew up in, I have had my fare share of cultural discomfort, or as it is more commonly known, culture shock.
Yet, I love other cultures, and that love is one of the things that has helped me survive for so long away from my home culture.
I say I love cultures, but really it is the people who make up the cultures that I love. In fact, it is my theology of people that has helped me make big steps in overcoming culture shock. Allow me to explain.
As a Christian, I believe that God made people. He made us in His own image, and He made us good. However, we messed things up and became evil. This doctrine is known as total depravity. It is also the reason why culture shock exists.
You see, culture shock comes when we look at something in another culture and think, “That’s not how it should be.” Total depravity comes into the picture here in two ways. The first is that the host culture that is frustrating us is made up of evil people who do things in an imperfect and evil way. The second is that we are evil and think that these other evil people need to do their imperfect things in our imperfect way.
Of course, it is difficult for us to see our own reflection. We assume that all of the problems come from the host culture, and we blame them. We get angry and frustrated that they are not like us. We never seem to notice that in wishing that they would be more like us we are wishing them to be angry frustrated people.
If we left the story here, it would be depressing and hopeless, and we would only end up hating everyone in the world (even ourselves). Yet God did not leave us this way. He came into our world and experienced human culture. He died for our sins and He redeemed all of humanity. Everyone can be saved and redeemed. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32)
When I see other cultures, I see the evil. But I also see the people that God loves. He came to redeem them, and in each of them there is much good to see.
Last month I visited Greece. Today I am in Bulgaria. Tomorrow I will be in Romania. Each culture is made up of wonderful and flawed people, just like me.
Like me, they are people who do not deserve redemption.
Like me, they are people who do not deserve love.
Yet like me, they are people that Jesus died to save.
When we realize that every single person we ever meet is someone who Jesus came to redeem in the same way He redeemed me, it becomes very difficult to dislike him or his culture.
If we truly believe the good news of undeserved salvation by grace through faith, pride falls away. Without pride, there is no ethnocentrism, and there is no culture shock.
In Jesus we realize that we are all loved by God even though we deserve wrath. How can we then turn around and hate others for not being like us?
When we realize that everyone is loved by God, just like we are, it liberates us from our pride, frustration, anger, and hate; and it allows us to love other people and cultures.
Jesus is the cure for culture shock.
Jesus is the cure for ethnocentrism.
Jesus is the cure for racism.
At least He would be if we acted like we really believed.