The tough assignment for missionaries is to
of the gospel to their hearers. Explaining the grace of God and thegospel through the complexities of foreign languages and unfamiliar cultures isincredibly complicated. The obvious initial obstacle is language learning. Thereis no substitute and no excuse for not becoming proficient in the local language.However, as difficult as it is to acquire linguistic fluency, that is not the hardestaspect of communication. Though inseparable, exploring the numerous layers of multi-faceted cultural belief systems is considerably more difficult than thelinguistic challenge. Taken together, the barriers of language acquisition andcultural acuity seem nearly insurmountable.For example, after a few years of studying the previously unknownlanguage of the remote Sawi tribesmen in Irian Jaya, New Guinea (Indonesia),Don Richardson was stunned the first time he told the basic storyline of thegospel. For the Sawi, whose highest cultural ideal was treachery, Judas Iscariotemerged as the hero and Jesus was the dupe. It wasn’t until much later, withadditional cultural understanding, that Don was able to
the gospelso the intended meaning was understood.Hindu belief systems also present unique challenges to the presentationof the gospel. Hindus believe in a universe that basically never changes. Everyperson moves through eternity one life at a time (reincarnation). They arecontinually born again. A person’s status in one life may be important, but, in thenext, may be less significant. It doesn’t really matter for the Hindu because whenthis life is over, another begins and another one after that. The Hindu worldviewseems completely defeatist to those in the West. Americans want to yell out tothe Hindu, “Come on! You can make things better for yourselves and yourchildren.” But Hindus view such Western optimism as meaningless. Theywonder why we exert ourselves so much in this short life when we may comeback in the next reincarnation as a grub worm. There are reasons for the Hindu feelings of hopelessness and fatalisticview of life. To meaningfully minister to Hindus, we must take their beliefsseriously and compassionately by making steady efforts to identify with theirculture. We must understand what they mean by being “born again” so thegospel is communicated accurately.
Communicating the Gospel
By David Sitton
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