When the military moved our family to Tokyo, we were blessed to find a vibrant church of Japanese believers. Our first Easter in Japan, my thoughts filled with spring, I dressed in pastel colors. But when I walked into church that morning, everyone was wearing red.
Before I could say "Happy Easter" to the usher, he greeted me, "Happy Resurrection Day!"
When I slipped into a seat next to an American friend, she explained it to me: "The Japanese wear red on Easter—Resurrection Day to them—to honor Christ's shed blood."
In that moment I realized several of my ideas about Easter were cultural. Since then, I've discovered many aspects of my faith are grounded in my American paradigm rather than in my Bible.
Faith has always been embroidered by culture. But we risk creating God in our image when we view him only through the lens of our experiences. Our God is too small if we limit him to our culture.
Did you know Americans have become minority members of our religion? By numbers alone, the language of Christianity is no longer English. Soon, two-thirds of all Christians will be from Africa, Latin America, or Asia.
If God loves everyone, irrespective of political borders, then we need to do a better job of becoming citizens of the world. Who are our international sisters in the faith, and how can we get to know them? We might just find that in knowing them better, we discover new ways of knowing ourselves—and God.
1. Read a different newspaper.
American television's "world news" offers little coverage of stories outside the U.S. And newspapers have limited space in which to display six continents' worth of news. So why not broaden your source of news coverage?
Almost every nation has a newspaper or interest group devoted to covering its news. Hundreds of newspapers are a click away. You'll find many of them at www.world-newspapers.com. My favorite source for global politics is the International Herald Tribune at www.iht.com. If your interests are specifically Asian, try Asahi Shimbun's Asia Network at www.asahi.com/english/asianet.
2. Take a personal interest.
Do you know the origins of the coffee you drink? Ugandans hope you do. Uganda's cash crop used to be tobacco—before Americans decided smoking was bad. Now their biggest export is coffee because Americans have decided drinking coffee is good. Did you know your daily Starbucks run had global implications? I didn't either until I met someone from Uganda.