Friday, August 6, 2010

Go into all the world, teaching all nations...

This “looking for a job” business takes a lot of time! I need to post!
I recently had breakfast with a missionary who is home on leave from Kenya . We were part of about a dozen men who came to this restaurant after an early morning men’s prayer group at our church. As we took our seats I mentioned that I had been wanting to talk to a missionary like him about something for a long time.
I have long thought about the implication that bringing the Gospel to a relatively “uneducated” people group has with regard to the validity of Torah. How do we transfer knowledge about what is valid in the Bible and what is not when we teach? Once they can read the scriptures for themselves, what do we say when they ask us a question, such as “it says here that we are to do (such and such)? or that we are not to do (such and such). If Protestants have this built-in bias about Torah, then they will probably check which side of Matthew the question is coming from and respond accordingly. Our preconceived notions will end up being promulgated in yet another culture. The interesting thing is that the lifestyle of the Old Testament pastoral sheep herders is quite similar to what the Maasai people in the Serengeti experience. They relate well to the stories of the Old Testament, perhaps more so than to the New Testament.
The following paragraph comes from
“The Maasai live in the semi-arid Rift Valley region of Kenya and Tanzania. They own large herds of cattle, sheep and goats which they follow around seasonally in search of new grazing grounds and water sources. Traditionally the Maasai have always been a proud and independent tribe. They did not cultivate the land and depend on a cash economy as many of those around them did, rather they lived off the blood, milk and meat that their cattle provided them. Cattle plays a central role in the life of the Maasai. Cattle represents food and power; the more cattle a Maasai has, the richer he is and therefore the more power and influence he will have within his tribe.”
When the Biblical worldview comes into conflict with a person’s culture, the person has to make a decision, do I change or not change? There are some tribal customs that the Maasai have that clash with Torah; here are two such areas. If I remember this correctly, there is a kind of fraternal bond that Maasai men have together (I think it has to with sharing a ceremony, such as circumcision or something like that) which has some privileges. Later on as men, when a man travels through the Rift valley, he can drop in on another such member‘s hut and partake in sexual relations with his wife. When the Maasai Christians learned of the Biblical way, they changed their behavior. This is a moral issue and so the need to change is clear cut. Drinking blood from an animal is another issue. The Bible clearly forbids it, and repeats the expectation in the New Testament (Acts 15) but this is not considered a moral issue, so the church usually does not preach/teach on it and the missionaries presumably do not either. It’s a very important part of Maasai culture, but do the missionaries see it as something to confront? And what will the missionary say to the Maasai when they read about it? 
This sort of table talk quickly got into what American Christians should do with regards to food. Several typical Bible verses on the subject were discussed, with no clear resolution. Then my friend pointed at the plate across the table which had bacon on it and asked, “Is this man sinning if he eats that bacon”? I sensed that this was a turning point; the talk would flow down one side of the divide or the other. I had a flashback to FFOZ’s article on the differences between Gentile and Messianic believers with regard to Acts 15. I hesitated at first; I wanted to say yes, in a way, but then said, “it’s not a matter of sin, but of wisdom. Did God set these rules up in the first place for a good reason? While Gentiles may not be “under the law” as you say, would they be doing themselves a favor by following God’s advice?” “Hmm, sounds like Judaizing”, was the reply. I quickly said “no, it’s nothing like that”; that misses the point. The point is wisdom and leaving the door open to the possibility of considering it as such. If we live with a tacit unspoken assumption, then we are biased and not Biblical. 
Deuteronomy 4:6-9
"Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them [commandments]; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' "For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? "And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this [Torah] which I set before you this day?  "Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren.”

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