What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Personal Example

I spent two years of my life serving a mission in the Caribbean. It was a wonderful opportunity to see various countries and cultures, and be educated by the similarities and differences between them. One trend that stood out to me was how powerful of an influence one’s society could be.

For example, it was not uncommon to hear of individuals changing their religion after moving to another country. Hindus from Guyana might very well become Christians after moving out to the islands, to better fit in with those around them. Similarly, Christians from the islands might become Hindus after moving to Guyana.

I, myself, come from an environment where a single religion makes up the majority of the culture. Many that move here join the religion, and so long as one remains in this bubble it is far easier to maintain that faith. It is very easy to believe that we are the way that we are forever, that we would never embrace a different walk of life. But if you have never lived in a culture where you are a minority, then you do not realize how tempting it is to change yourself just to fit it in.

Our default tendency is to believe whatever we are surrounded by. It is possible to believe more deeply than this, but that requires conscious, intentional discipleship. Whatever your religion is, it may be helpful to ask yourself if you are that religion because it is convenient, or because you actually believe in it. For example, I am a Christian, but is that because I am surrounded by Christians, or do I really and truly believe that Christ is the only way to spiritual perfection. Do I really believe that his teachings will provide me peace and fulfillment that I cannot find in any other place? I do, but I had to do real work to obtain that belief.

Evolving Your Beliefs- Personal Example

On my mission I served in the country of Guyana, where I observed people with a far different culture than the one I had been raised with. I was able to clearly see how the principles that I was living compared to the ones that these people were. To say that either my culture or theirs was “better” than the other would be a gross oversimplification. They were different. There were some trends among the Guyanese that I thought were better, and some from America that I thought were better.

One area where I felt the Guyanese traditions were more in touch with Christ’s teachings was in treating everyone like a neighbor. When I came back to my own country, it stood out in stark contrast how few people met my eye and gave me a “good morning” as I walked down the street.

Another gap as wide as two cultures is that from one generation to another. Spend an evening surrounded by people 20 years older or younger than you, and it’ll feel like you’ve visited a new country! And while each generation usually claims that their way is better, once again this is an oversimplification.

Just from my own perspective, I believe that my generation has done better with seeing the inherent worth in everyone, and in maintaining love for the sinner. On the other hand, the prior generation is better at dividing good from evil, and they know that commandments are not just suggestions!

But what about two people from the same demographic? Same age, same culture, same race, etc? Well, I married a woman who was exactly that, and you know what? The differences between us were still just as stark as the ones between different cultures and different generations! Though both of us were already Christians, we had very different methods for following Him. And again, it would be an oversimplification to say that either of our ways were superior. Some areas she was further advanced in, and some areas I was.

We struggle to accept the idea that other people might be more advanced than us, though, even if only in part. We tend to think that our culture, our generation, and our family of origin were best. They can’t just have been good, they must be best. And we can spend a lot of time trying to convert people over to our unique perspective. In the end, though, it is not helpful for Guyanese to become Americans or Americans to become Guyanese. Millennials do not need to transform into the Gen-X mold, nor vice versa. My wife and I don’t need to remake one another in our own image.

Instead, all of us need to become more like Christ, and we can progress in that by learning from one another. We can view the differences between us and adopt all the good parts that each holds. There are things you can learn from different cultures, generations, and individuals. Several members, coming together in one body. There are even elements of Christianity that I’ve seen non-Christians get better than us! Your next lesson in discipleship is everywhere about you, you just need to look for the good.