Canvas | Issue 91: Engaging with Culture Through a Gospel Lens
“We’re different. People [are] always afraid of what’s different.” Words spoken by one of the Jamaican bobsled team in the film Cool Runnings (1993) are just as true almost 30 years on. It’s not easy to relate to people whose culture is different from ours, whether that’s in terms of ethnicity, social grouping, background or religion. Our life perspectives can be worlds apart.
When we lack connection and understanding, our view of people (the other) can become distorted by a fear of what’s different; our perception depends on our lens. We can leap to conclusions about others based on very little knowledge or evidence, or based on stereotypes. Maybe we have been hurt by certain kinds of people, and avoid others like them. Or maybe we have inherited certain prejudices. However our vision is blurred, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the corrective lens that offers clarity – the lens we focus on in this issue of Canvas.
We have been deliberately broad in our approach to this topic, aiming to present a larger perspective on various aspects of culture. IFES Regional Secretary (South Pacific) Dave Walter asks in our feature article: “Why bother crossing cultures at all? Why don’t we just let everyone spend time with people who are just like them? …[T]he gospel, the glorious central message of the Christian faith calls on everyone who follows Jesus to do so much more than play safe and take the easy option.”
Adding to this, Auckland Associate Staff Workers Rabena Tanielu and Kuini Seuseu offer their perspectives on how the gospel transforms our view of culture, and how culture can be used to elevate the gospel message. Wellington Team Leader Matthias Loong considers how we reach students with the gospel in different university cultures. Running through this Canvas issue is one central idea: the gospel is the unifying thread that connects us all.
Colossians 3:10–11 (The Message) says, “Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.”
The gospel is the only lens that helps us to see things as they really are and as they should be – everyone is included in Christ.
Sadly, this is my final issue of Canvas as editor. In supporting my husband, who has health challenges, I have decided to pursue a local role with my church. I have really enjoyed working with our students, staff and wider TSCF community to bring Canvas to you, and I look forward to passing the baton to the next TSCF Communications Manager.
The movement of reaching students for Christ and changing them for life is so important. We are continually grateful for your ongoing prayers and support and thank God for you all.
Bex Allen, Communications Manager