As we continue our study of world cultures, let’s move across the world from Latin America to the Middle East.
If there’s one area of the world that Americans think they’re “experts” on, it’s the Middle East. As soon as some controversial event happens in this region, every American on Twitter and Facebook suddenly becomes a Middle Eastern scholar, waxing eloquent on what should have happened. Unfortunately, we have little knowledge of what it is actually like in this region or the sorrows its people face. None of us are experts.
Including myself. And so it is with some hesitation that I take up the task of describing Middle Eastern culture. But as someone who has visited the region and consider some of its residents my good friends, I want to explain a little bit about the culture in hopes of providing better understanding.
When we better understand a culture, we can better reach the people.
Now, I want you to put aside everything you’ve heard on the evening talk shows, on Twitter, and from your favorite news site. Most of these organizations mean well in their pursuit of what they consider truth, but many of them end up oversimplifying the complicated geopolitics of the Middle East as they try to present the news from the region in an engaging way for Americans.
Instead of viewing the Middle East from a political or economic mindset, let’s take a moment to consider its complications from the perspective of a believer – people who have been called to love the Middle East. I don’t mean necessarily to love the Middle East as a geographical area – though it certainly is a beautiful part of the world. Nor do I mean we must love every aspect of the culture, particularly the religion. However, we have been called to love its people – though in many ways, the region is full of enemies, both as a nation and as Christians.
Why would we love such people? Because Christ loved us (1 John 4:19) – and He called us to a radical path of loving even our enemies (Matt. 5:44). How much must we love these people? Enough to make disciples of them (Matthew 28:19-20).
But now we need another clarification – though the region does contain many dangerous forces, the people of the Middle East in general are not dangerous. The ones you see on the news waving black flags are radicals that must be stopped. But the average citizen of this region wants to live in peace. And many would love to be your friend.
Now that we have those clarifications out of the way – and for this culture, many are required – let’s consider a few character traits of Middle Eastern culture:
I hope these characteristics are helpful for considering how we can reach this culture, whether by traveling there or by walking across the street to our neighbor from this culture.
Invite them over. Prepare lots and lots of food (no pork though). Laugh with them and engage with them in passionate discussion about what you hold dear. Become their friend and watch how God works.
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.