December 09, 2010
Christmas: A Culture Correcting Invasion - by Jack Popjes
We are pleased to have Jack Popjes guest post for us today.
As professional change makers, missionaries get a special thrill from the Christmas story. What an invasion! Talk about barging in to change cultures!
After moving into the Canela village in Brazil, my wife and I studied and analyzed the culture and language, and translated the eternal truths of Scripture clearly into the Canela language. We saw God's Holy Spirit using His Word to change people's worldview to line up with the way He wants them to think, speak and live.
Moving into a culture in order to bring change is exactly what God did at Christmas. He moved into the Jewish culture which badly needed to be transformed, having drifted far from the clear truths of God’s Word. Tradition, for instance, had encrusted the keeping of the Sabbath with so many rules, God’s day of rest had been turned in a burden not a blessing. People obeyed tradition instead of the plain Word of God. One of the most blatant examples of tradition trumping God’s Word is the way in which the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day treated women.
Every pious Jewish man on waking in the morning and while still lying in bed, would pray the traditional thanksgiving Berakah: "Blessed is He who did not make me a gentile, a slave, or a woman." Every morning the wives of pious Jews heard their husbands praise God and in effect say to them, "I'm so glad I am not you." What a hopeless way to start the day! A Gentile could convert, a slave could become free, but a woman in that unbiblical, tradition-bound culture was forever trapped in her wretched position.
Jewish tradition, not Scripture excluded women from full participation in worship. Herod's temple had walls that separated women from the men. This was not in the original, God-given designs of either the tabernacle or the temple. The Talmud stated, "A hundred women are no better than two men." No wonder, the synagogue quorum was ten men: women simply did not count.
The Mishnah, a collection of rabbinical teachings stated, "Let your house be a meeting place for the Sages and drink in their Words with thirst. Talk not much with womankind. He that does, brings evil upon himself, neglects the study of the Law and will inherit hell." To say that women were not encouraged to study the Scriptures would be a gross understatement.
In this woman-deriding society, God chose a woman, Mary, to give birth to His own Son. Each morning, while pious Joseph murmured his Berakah, Mary nursed her baby, burped him, and then quietly kissed the face of God.
Jesus, the culture-changing Invader, refused to be bound by traditional rules. One day, Mary, another woman, sat at His feet as a pupil eagerly drinking in all He said. When her sister Martha complained, Jesus corrected her unbiblical thinking. "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Jesus shocked His disciples when He not only talked with a doubly despised person, a Samaritan and a woman, and asked her for a drink, but He also chose that occasion to reveal Himself as the Messiah for the first time.
The Mishnah tradition stated, "Whereby do women earn merit? By making their children go to the synagogue to learn Scripture and their husbands to learn Mishnah, and waiting at home for their husbands to return." Tradition, therefore, taught the only way a woman could serve God, was to have children and bring them up to serve Him.
One day, a woman impressed with His service for God, echoed this unbiblical worldview when she shouted to Jesus from the crowd, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth, and nursed you!"
Jesus immediately corrected that false mindset. "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it." He taught the truth that anyone—man, woman or child—could hear the Word and obey it. No one was excluded. Not gentiles, not slaves, not women. Women could hear, obey, worship, and serve God directly, not just through the men in their lives.
Christmas is a good time to remember that God invades cultures to change unbiblical mindsets and worldviews, aligning them with His revealed Truth. He commanded His Church to bring God's liberating, life-giving Word to bear against the enslaving, life-destroying cultural mindsets of thousands of societies all over the world.
My wife and I are deeply thankful to God for using us to invade the Canela culture and give its people an option to change their way of life. The joy of knowing that Canela lives were altered for the better as people connected with God is a tremendous reward.