For sixteen days in the month of February, I had the privilege of traveling with my family to the country of Thailand. The main purpose of our trip was to encourage and equip the people who labor in and for the love of God in some of the most difficult places in the world.
This week, I want to share with you the impact this trip had on my family:
As we planned a family trip to Thailand, there were two "perspectives" that we asked God to crystalize in our hearts and lives: first, we wanted to know how it feels to be in the minority in a culture; and second, we wanted to understand and appreciate that being different does not necessarily mean being wrong.
First, being the minority in a culture is humbling, confusing, frustrating, and exciting. From learning to communicate to eating new food, everything about being in a different culture makes you feel uncomfortable. It was obvious we were not natives, even before we spoke. Our skin color, our dazed and confused looks, even the way we all held our eating utensils screamed "outsider". My children, along with my wife and I, were able to experience firsthand what many of our friends here in the U.S. experience every day as a part of a minority in our culture. Our hope was that this experience in another culture would create in our family an increased understanding and empathy for those in our own culture who are in a minority, and, as a result, that we would move towards these friends in love to bring about the love of Christ and the unity of the Spirit among all people.
Second, being the minority in a culture forced us to address the distinction between what is "different" and what is "wrong." On our first day in Thailand, one of my kids said, "Dad, why do they drive on the wrong side of the road?" This was a perfect opportunity to talk about this issue. I responded, "Who says we drive on the right side of the road?"
Deep in all of us, there is a looming arrogance that thinks "our way" is synonymous with the "right way." As a white, western, English-speaking person, it is easy to think that “our way” is the “right way” because English is spoken all over the world, western ideas and entertainment are prevalent in every culture, and much of the marketing tools used by global companies are white westerners. To perpetuate this looming arrogance is to divide and separate God’s intended purposes for His people.
Contrary to the way a lot of us think (or at least live), white-Anglos will not be the majority of heaven’s population. In fact, not a single white person was used by God to write even one sentence in his Holy Word! As a family, we began to see that “our way” of doing things is not necessarily “God’s Way.” This has enabled us to not only relax about the things that are clearly unique to our culture, but also to grow increasingly restless and passionate about things that are clearly in line with the culture of God’s Kingdom.
As we reflect on these things as a family, our gratitude towards Jesus, and what he did on our behalf, continues to grow. He was in the ultimate minority: the perfect Son of God, sent to fallen “Adam,” to redeem for Himself a people from all tribes, nations, and tongues. In this way, He is able to uniquely identify with those who have been marginalized and oppressed in our world. In love, He moved toward us!
Also, in His coming, Jesus brought a clear distinction of what is right and wrong; Jesus came to disrupt our worldly and often arrogant ways of thinking. He came to tear down the dividing walls of hostility between cultures and people. He came to establish a kingdom that is composed of people from all nations and tribes.
Thankfully, driving on the correct side of the road or eating certain types of food are not the things for which He died or by which His kingdom is defined. Our family was able to see that our privilege in this life is to move towards those that are marginalized, oppressed, and “different.” We saw that our highest aim is not to see people become more like “us” but for all of us to reflect the perfect image of God, redeemed and renewed through the perfect Son of God, Jesus the Christ.