Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-4
1 When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. 2 For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. (NLT)
In her book The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver tells the story of a missionary family in the jungles of Central Africa. For a Christian, it is a disturbing reminder of how insensitive well-meaning Christians can be. The white male missionary is seeking to impose what we might call ‘Western’ values on the natives. And the gospel he preaches features a fair amount of fire and brimstone.
There is a confusing mix of Christianity and culture. Some things the missionary urges on the people are what we might call cultural choices. Some things he says about God and about Jesus are parodies of what the Bible really says. And over it all, there is the sense that this missionary believes he is superior to those to whom he ministers, though it isn’t spelt out specifically. In fairness, we have to say that modern-day cross-cultural missionaries are a lot more sensitive to these issues.
When sharing our faith, we do need to be careful to focus on Jesus and not insist others conform to each and every cultural practice we Christians might adopt. We need to ensure we do not come across as those who know all the answers and who are somehow better people than others. And we need to ensure the Jesus we proclaim is the Jesus of the Bible, not filtered through the lens of our own upbringing and prejudices.
If people are going to reject the faith, make sure it is the true faith they are rejecting rather than the distorted message we may be presenting.