Another Mid-Month Moment from the Archives of Connie Inglis...
The year was 1993. My husband and I and our three children (aged 5,4 & 2) were traveling by banca boat through the waters of the Philippine Sea to visit our future home, the small island of Ramos south of Palawan, where the Molbog people live. A new adventure as missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators awaited us there.
After three hours on the open sea, our boat pulled up to a white-sand beach. I noticed that a few elderly men awaited our arrival under the coconut trees lining the beach. I watched as our co-worker, who had lived on the island for many years, hopped out of the boat and immediately proceeded to greet these men. Only it was a greeting I had never seen before.
The bowing was not unusual. No, it was their form of handshake that drew my attention. I watched as in turn, they all placed their left hand under their right elbow, then stretched out their right arm and took the other man's hand, giving it a couple of stiff shakes. Curious. In fact, that was just the beginning of watching and learning and copying cultural ways unique to the Molbog people.
In the book of Corinthians Paul writes (9:19-23-NLT):
Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. 22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
Those years on Ramos Island I paid attention, asked questions, sought to adapt, and tried to relate to the Molbog people as much as possible (as a "rich westerner" I would never be considered one of them), seeking to follow Paul's (and Christ's) example. That didn't mean I had to follow or believe in their animistic rituals and their folk-Islamic ways, but it DID mean I needed to become like them as much as possible in order to, "spread the Good News and share in its blessings."
But what does that mean to us today in our Canadian culture? And as authors and speakers? How do we steer our world towards hope and love and Jesus Christ in a relatable way? How do we become all things to all people without entering into cultural ways that are not pleasing to God? How can we be free men and also slaves?
I believe Paul gives us three ways in these verses:
1. By knowing God's Word and obeying God's Word. I know. I've said this many times but we, as Christian authors, MUST spend time in God's Word, paying attention to what the Spirit is saying to us in the words, and then obeying them. (I need to be reminded of this constantly.) Even if we're writing fiction, godly themes can offer hope and guide readers to Christ.
2. By not judging. It's hard to not judge non-believers in their sin. And sometimes it's even harder to not judge "weak" believers in their choices. However, that is God's role, NOT ours. Somehow, we need to "share their weakness" - to show that we too are human, that we understand and care, and then to offer the Way of hope and freedom. This is tricky because each relationship we're in is unique. That's when we need to go back to way #1!
3. By keeping the right perspective. Our purpose: to offer God's way out - salvation; "to spread God's GOOD News and share in its blessings." Our role is to share - the Spirit's role is to convict and save through the victorious resurrection power of the name of the LORD Jesus Christ. We need to remember that, even as we write.
We cannot follow Paul's example if we do not pay attention to what God is doing all around us. My prayer for us this week is that we will commit to watching and listening for God's working. Paul also states later in 1 Corinthians 10:31:
"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
May we always seek to glorify God .
Seeking to pay attention,
January 24, 2018