There is an African proverb that says, “it takes a village to raise a child.” However, within our communities are people who subscribe to a range of diverse cultures and norms. Who is a child to listen to and learn from in their multi-cultured community? What part does culture play in the understanding of my faith? How do I navigate through the traditions and beliefs taught at home, the opinion of my peers, and the life of Jesus Christ?
A BOX WITHOUT CHRIST
I never really struggled with identity until I discovered that I might not necessarily agree with the box designed for me. This ‘box’ guided me in which conversations I could not be a part of; questions I could and could not ask, and how I should act at my age. I was raised by a community that made it clear that I am a child. I recall when I was in school, I met many other young people who were put into their box, which either agreed or contradicted what I was taught. The cultural norms I subscribed to as a child did not include knowing Christ.
YOU ARE ONLY A CHILD
The interplay between the complex cultures and norms taught at home vs the community influence vs school, left one with what seemed to be a multitude of avenues to take. One thing was abundantly clear, I was a child, and I needed to act that way, which coincidently included making mistakes.
I was encouraged to be that young man who lived. I was expected to mess up for that is how I will learn. Amid those cultural expectations, something unusual happened, I became a Christ-follower.
I AM A CHRISTIAN, NOW WHAT?
Undoubtedly it was and perhaps still is, quite an uncool thing to follow Christ at a young age. The crazy part is that society, for some reason, has accepted this, and as a result, you are either ridiculed, or the expectations of your continued following of Christ is lessened as compared to an adult.
‘You are young.’ ‘You are supposed to be living your life.’ These are statements I would hear quite often. It was as though I was going against cultural norms. I should not be a Christian. It’s too soon. I am too young.
It becomes quite unfortunate when the church adopts a similar mindset. To some extent, the church has created a culture of not enabling young people to radically pursue a relationship with God while expressing their youth. I do not believe Jesus intended for this to happen.
JESUS AND CULTURE
The Gospel, according to John, depicts a fascinating conversation between Jesus and a woman from Samaria (John 4:4-42). It is intriguing because the culture in that period tabooed the association of Jews with Samaritans. For some reason, Jesus initiates the conversation (confronting the cultural norm), which leads to the woman believing that Jesus is the Messiah, and the woman going back to her people to tell them about the experience.
The consequence of that encounter led to the conversion of many Samaritans. Had Jesus accepted and conformed to the cultural norm of his day, that group of Samaritans may not have come to the knowledge of the truth.
THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH
Therefore, as a church, we should seek to confront any cultural norm that hinders young people from enjoying a relationship with Jesus and expressing that relationship. Jesus confronted the cultural norm and introduced a new norm, a Kingdom culture. Kingdom culture is inclusive and centred on knowing Jesus, irrespective of gender, race and age.
Also, let us empower and equip young people to not conform to cultures, norms and patterns that prevent them from being able to live out their faith.
What do you think?