Letter Re: Dealing with national pride on the Mission Field
My dear MTS family,
I would like to share a few other thoughts with you concerning how God would have us respond to situations where our nation is spoken about in some negative way by another — by a fellow-worker, or by a national from the country where we will be serving. Be sure of one thing — such comments will come. You need to be prepared for them.
Some simple pieces of loving advice:
- Realise the root issue in our own hearts. Why do we get hurt? Why are we sometimes very sensitive when people say negative things about our country and people? Why do we react and become defensive? Is it not much to do with the fact that deep within us is a PRIDE of our nation? God calls us, His servants, to die to our selves — every part of us, and that includes to die to this pride of our own people, those inner thoughts and beliefs that we are really superior to all other nations. We should rejoice in the fact that God planned for us to be born into our particular nation — and enjoy that fact to the full — to feel a sense of identification with and love for our own people as Paul did for his own nation, the Jews.
- Recognise that how God looks upon our own nation — as people estranged from Him, who are sinful to the core — a people whose life, history, culture et al is deeply affected by their sinfulness. We need, therefore, to resist the temptation to romanticize our own nation, as if our nation is so wonderful in contrast to the nation we are now called to live among. To be sure, it isn’t and we need to be honest enough to admit this fact to ourselves over and over again as we go through various degrees of culture shock.
- Let go of our own national and cultural heritage for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. We are called now to enter into the history, culture and life of another people. We can’t do so in the same way Jesus did if we keep holding on to our own traditions and heritage as a people. This process of letting go of our sense of national loyalty is in order that we might be free to love the people whom God is sending us to minister among — to love its culture, culture and everything that represents this people. To love them for Jesus’ sake. But also keep in mind that their nation and people, just like your own, is also riddled with signs of their rebellion against God — their sinfulness. Therefore, don’t fall into the opposite trap of glorifying their culture in your own mind as if it’s the very exalted on the face of the earth. You are there to share the Good News with them — which hopefully over the coming years and decades will make a powerful penetration of all the various strata of their culture and society.
- Expect to hear negative comments about your own country. Ask yourself why this person is making such a comment? It’s probably because they don’t have a clue about your country, or that they’ve been hurt sometime in the past by someone from your country. Then you can understand their situation and respond to their NEED, rather than react to their seemingly negative comment. When your people are put down, criticized and so on, it is good to agree with them. Yes, your people, my people, are all a sinful people. And they need the Lord. Use such a situation for God’s purposes to take the attention off one people or the other and on to their own need for God’s forgiveness.
- Love the people of God above any human nation. God’s “holy nation” is supra-cultural, supra-national, which means it is above all broken, human cultures and nations. This is the nation that God loves above all. This is a far more glorious heritage than any earthly heritage. To have this heart will save us from attacking back when our earthly nation and people are “attacked” whether it be by a fellow-missionary (intentionally or unintentionally) or a national.
Brothers and sisters, let us have the mind of Christ on this matter. He did not hold on to His heavenly status and identity but gave it all up so that we might be saved and become members of His eternal family.
Praying for you in this process of emptying yourselves of SELF in order that CHRIST might become truly visible in and through our attitudes, our conversations and our relationships as we mix with people from many other nations.
Your fellow-citizen in God’s eternal kingdom,