Summary: Matthew 5:13-16 “Let’s not talk about religion”
“Let’s not talk about religion”
As you know we’ve lived overseas in a few different countries. I’ve had to learn to live in a culture that is not my own. As well as that I’m married to someone from overseas – a Czech. And Czech culture is different to Australian culture. It’s a challenge living in a different culture and learning to adjust to a different culture. But as well as challenging it’s interesting to see how different people do things differently, think differently. And one of the things is when you live in a different culture, you have to learn about how the Gospel works in a different culture. You see, I was born and raised an Aussie. I’m a true blue Aussie - my family on almost all sides goes back to the 1800s. I’ve got at least four convict ancestors. My great-grandfather landed on Anzac Cove in Turkey on 25th April, 1915. Paul had claimed that if anyone can claim to be a real Hebrew, that he could. And I feel that I can say that too. If anyone can claim to be a real Aussie, I can. And I became a Christian in Australia. I learnt how to live and think and act as an Aussie Christian.
So when I went overseas, I had to learn how Christianity fitted in with another culture. I had to learn that some things I thought were Christian were just part of Australian culture, they weren’t necessarily things the Bible talks about. In the old days, missionaries would go to other countries and import their culture as well as the Gospel. So when the natives converted, they would, for example, make them all wear western clothes - that was part of being a Christian! We now look back on that and laugh – or cringe. And now when we go to another country we try to be culturally sensitive and adapt the Gospel to their culture. But sometimes we can go too far in cultural adaptation, because while there are some things in other cultures that are not wrong and that we can accept, there are other things that are downright wrong! For example, where we lived in Asia, they had a concept of shame that we find difficult to understand, but it was so strong that it meant that a person would lie rather than lose shame. Is that right for them to lie because it is part of their culture? No it’s not – it’s just sin. It is something that in the culture that has to be confronted and challenged with the Gospel.
And one thing we learnt, is that every culture in the world has things that are okay, or even good. But also that every culture has things that are wrong and sinful, and hinder the Gospel. And one thing we learnt is that applies to every culture. Not just other cultures, but it also includes Aussie culture. Our Aussie culture has many good things going for it - things like mateship, the concept of a fair go. But there are other things that are actually wrong, sinful, and sometimes when you are in that culture you can’t see them. Before I went to live overseas I was pretty blind to the faults of some aspects of Aussie culture. But when you are out of Aussie culture for a while, you can look back at it and see the good points, as well as the bad points.
And today we are going to look at one of the more negative aspects of Aussie culture. Now, none of us like it when our own culture is attacked. But I’m not attacking it as an outsider, but I’m having a go at it as a fellow Aussie who’s had a chance to look at it from a new angle - so please bear with me! And today I’m going to look at something that is very much ingrained in our culture, into our social culture.
So this is what I’m talking about: - when you meet together with other people here in Australia - social functions, BBQs, school fetes, small talk at work, wherever it is. There are rules for polite conversation, and we know as Aussies, it is ingrained in us since birth, that in social context there are three things that we don’t talk about. What are they? Sex, politics and religion. You might laugh, but it’s almost true. Almost. Because in my experience, we Aussies actually do talk about two of them. We love talking about politics. Of course – you’ve gotta bag both parties so you are being fair, but we actually have no worries about talking about politics. And its increasingly becoming the same with sex. Think of all the jokes with sexual innuendos. So while we say that in conversation there are three things it is impolite to talk about - sex, politics and religion, in point of fact, in reality, it’s only one of them that is actually taboo, strictly taboo to talk about. Which one is it? Religion. Who would agree with me on that one?