CROSS CULTURAL COMMUNICATING
Avoiding Cutoffs and Misunderstandings
Cut-offs are not the same as misunderstandings: Misunderstandings means they actually don’t know what we are talking about. while Cut-offs means they know what we said, and for that reason they want to stop talking.
Cut-offs are not just a “difference,” for people expect that religions will be different. In fat, they might find the difference interesting. They might want to debate you, but not necessarily to leave you.
Something becomes a cut-offs when it is actually offensive. We cannot totally avoid cutoffs, but our goal is to avoid “premature” cut-offs. By “premature,” I mean “before they have heard the gospel.”
Once they have heard the gospel, we cannot prevent them from being offended at the gospel. This reaction is called “The offense of the cross.” It includes the ideas of being a sinner, of needing a savior, and of accepting that only death can pay for sin.
These verses show that there is such a thing as “the offense of the cross:”
1 Cor. 1:23 “Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews
Mark 14:27 “you all will be offended because of me.”
Matt 11:6. “Blessed is he who is not offended because of me.”
The Greek word for “offended” in these verses is “skandalizo” which means “to put a stumbling block”
I If the person does get offended, we do not want it to be because of our insensitivity or because of our bad breath, but because they have heard and understand the cross. If your listener is offended because of the cross, it is not your fault. Your hope is that you will not offend the person before you get to explain the cross.
What type of things might cause someone to refuse to talk? Attacking the person. Making the person feel you think he is stupid. Having insensitivity to holy places, such as by not taking off your shoes if you visit their worship locale. Our own personal Immorality or other hypocrisy would definitely cause them to see us as not worth talking to.
Here are some examples of cut-offs for specific religions:
Judaism: Callousness toward holocaust, Disrespect for Torah
Folk religions: Attacking their values – telling them they shouldn’t fixate on their ancestors
Islam: “Saying that Jesus is God” is a well-known cutoff in talking with Muslims, since the Koran specifically says that God cannot have a son. But of course we cannot avoid talking about it, since it is integral to the gospel. So the challenge in talking to a Muslim friend is the manner in which we share our faith in Jesus as God.
Avoiding Misunderstandings. Becoming sensitive to areas that the other person may misunderstand. Example: A missionary told a group of Hindus he was going to explain how to be born again. Their response was “that’s the very thing we’re trying to avoid; we want to escape from the cycle of being born again”. Our goal is to determine if the listener might misunderstand the point about Jesus and salvation that we are making, and seek for ways to explain it more clearly.
In fact, you probably should assume that almost every religious term you use will be understood in a different way by your friend. When I was on Taiwan, I could not use the simple word “god” in a conversation, because their religion has about a hundred gods. I solved this by specifying “the god who made everything.” Even if the person did not believe in creation, it was useful in specifying what I was talking about, since none of their hundred gods happens to be a creator-god.
This is one example of the general rule in communication that the receiver will automatically interpret new information in terms of the world view and experiences he already has. As another example, if you call God a “father,” he cannot help but think of what position a “father” has in his society, and what his experiences have been with his own father. This reality has some implications for you as communicator. First, you cannot assume that the receiver has grasped the meaning of what you have said. Secondly, you must search for ways to illustrate the new concept, so the listener realizes it is different from his first impression of the concept. Thirdly, you must create ways for the listener to give you feedback, so you can determine how close his understanding is to your intention, and then provide additional illustrations to overcome the aspects that he still misunderstands.
This is the procedure God has used to communicate to us, the human race. When God spoke to Abraham, he used words that were already in Abraham’s vocabulary, including the word for “god.” But God by His actions showed that he was a different kind of God.
Your task is complicated by the fact that you have to deal with three cultures: you have understand biblical culture in terms of your own culture, and then you have to make that plain to the new culture. Sometimes we can take advantage of the fact that their culture might be closer to the biblical culture than ours is For example, if they are shepherds, they probably will understand the biblical references to sheep better than you do.
It is an advantage for you if you can share the gospel in a conversation as opposed to through a lecture, because then you can pause after each point and ask for feedback. When you find out what they heard you say, you can then refine the explanation to bring what he is hearing closer to what you are saying.
Sometimes, if the person rejects your view, if might actually be proof the person has understood you correctly. We then fall back on the confidence that the gospel has been heard, and that the Holy Spirit will use it in the future.
USING HANDLES AND BRIDGES
I use these terms as follows: Handles link to some concept in their religion, while bridges link to something in their human need
Identify bridges.These are aspects of our common humanity. Since we are both human, we can expect that they will have needs that are similar to our needs. The task is to identify the need and show how Christ is the answer to this need.
Identify Handles. These are aspects of other religions which can be used to bring up the subject of Christ. They could be similarities or opposites:
- Similarities. For example, Muslims worship one God as creator. Whether or not that God is the same God that Christians worship, it is still a useful handlefor conversation.
— or —
- Opposites. While Buddhists look to Boddhisatvas for encouragement as they work out their own salvation, Jesus actually brings about salvation.
The PURPOSE of using handles is NOT to show “why you are wrong”
and NOT “how we are similar”
BUT an opportunity to bring up Jesus
Selection of Handles
We are watching for handles that link to the salvation message, which I have summarized as “need, Jesus as answer, repenting and trusting, and the benefits of faith.
FOR EXAMPLE, CONSIDER HOW TO RESPOND TO VIEWS OF “HOW TO BE SAVED” How to use conversations about someone’s approach to salvation as an opening to bring up Christ
This is COMPLEX because each religion’s view of “salvation” is different.
Here are THREE BASIC WAYS TO FIND SALVATION:
- Saved by certain “techniques”
- Saved by moral “behavior.”
- Saved by a “savior.”
EXAMPLES. which of the three are each of these:
- __ Getting a shaman to perform a ritual
- __ Chanting “Amitabha”
- __ Burning incense before an idol
- __ chanting “Hare Krishna”
- __ Meditating to produce “altered consciousness”
- __Praying 5 times a day
- Seek to understand the individual’s method by which he is striving for “salvation”.
- Seek to understand his “frustration level” in trying to carry out his method.
- If his frustration level is high, he is more likely to regard the willingness of Jesus to be his Savior as “good news”.
- If he feels he is doing just fine in his quest for salvation, the message of Jesus can still make an impact because it presents an alternative which possibly will call the person’s present approach into question.
- Or, ask him if he feels fulfilled or if any of the benefits of Christianity are things he might value
POSSIBLE TRANSITION SENTENCES
- __ I can see that you are working very hard to reach your religious goals. I respect you for that. I have found that no matter how hard I try, I can never be sure that I have done enough. But I have this deep sense that God has already accepted me. Can I tell you why?
- __ I appreciate your level of dependence and submission. I depend on Jesus in a similar way. May I tell you about what He has promised to do for me?
- __ You have reached a high level of accomplishment in your religious abilities. I don’t have any of these abilities, and yet I know I am secure in God’s love. May I tell you why?