“Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].” Romans 12: 2 (Amplified Bible).
So what do I believe now in relation to my religion and culture and where do I go from here? First, I believe that God is revealing to me that He is deeper than culture. He is greater than the effects of Eurocentric society or ideology. He is more complete than my Afrocentric worldview. If I allow Him (for we all do have free choice), He can take me deeper in my relationship with Him…. beyond my cultural boundaries which are limiting…. THAT I MADE LIMITING! Although my cultural heritage has been instrumental in defining the person I am, I now feel that I allowed it in certain ways to impeded my spiritual growth. I am not clear on exactly all the dynamics of how and I don’t have all the answers at this point on why. But I will walk by faith. I am hopeful that all will be revealed in time as I am still a work in progress…. and God loves me. I am being transformed spiritaully. I know it. I can feel it. I have dedicated myself to the process.
Second, God is also revealing to me that “faith without works is dead”. He initially saved me and is now transforming me, preparing me for a particular purpose. I am sure of this as I am sure of anything: “God blesses us so that we can bless others”. Another life changing event for me was the death of my partner on Friday 05 May 2006 (who as I have discussed in previous posts was shot and killed while questioning 2 drug dealers). Unfortunately or fortunately, I was out of town on another assigment that day. I know that if I was there on that day, it’s more than likely I would have been with him at that moment and I could have been the one killed. I have come to accept the fact (after much soul-searching and questioning), that God destined for me to be away. Out of harms way. So that I could fulfil His purpose. So what is this purpose he has for me? To be honest I don’t know at this moment, but my attitude is “prepare and send me Lord” to whatever and wherever it is. So I am laying a foundation by committing myself to three initial tasks:
1. A daily devotional where I will read the entire Bible in a year;
2. Studying “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren: a 40-day spiritual journey to discover God’s purpose for my life;
3. Reading “God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It” by Rev. Jim Wallis.
Finally, is there a cultural aspect in how we view and worship God? Of course there is…. NO DOUBT! The sermon at my church on Sunday was entitled; “The Church That I See”, referring to the Pastor’s vision for our church. Interestingly enough, he began the sermon with a 5-minute video clip featuring the end portion of the Rev. Martin Luther King “I have a Dream Speech”. As I listened God directed me to look around and observe the congregation. I saw White people, Black people, Brown people, Orientals, East Indians, Arabs, Africans, West Indians, men, women, young and old, ALL WORSHIPPING TOGETHER IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH! And God then said to me: “This is the way heaven will look like”. I understood then that this was God’s culture! It is all-inclusive and expansive, regardless of who you are and/or where you come from! My mind went to Malcolm X and the profound effect worshipping with Muslims of different colours and races had on him when he went on his pilgrimage to Mecca. He stated in a letter to his wife: “…. this pilgrimage has forced me to re-arrange much of my thought patterns, and toss aside some of my previous conclusions….” The fourth point of the Pastor’s messages was that he saw “an increasingly multi-cultural” church. Let me end with the Bible verse he gave to reference this point. It comes from Paul’s letter to the members of the church in Ephesus, that were experiencing cultural and religious tensions among the Gentiles and the Jews:
“14For He is [Himself] our peace (our bond of unity and harmony). He has made us both [Jew and Gentile] one [body], and has broken down (destroyed, abolished) the hostile dividing wall between us, 19Therefore you are no longer outsiders (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God’s own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God’s [own] household. 20You are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself the chief Cornerstone. 21In Him the whole structure is joined (bound, welded) together harmoniously, and it continues to rise (grow, increase) into a holy temple in the Lord [a sanctuary dedicated, consecrated, and sacred to the presence of the Lord]. 22In Him [and in fellowship with one another] you yourselves also are being built up [into this structure] with the rest, to form a fixed abode (dwelling place) of God in (by, through) the Spirit.” Ephesians 2: 14, 19-22 (Amplified Bible).