So last week was the last of my Bible classes, and it was very interesting. We were told by our teacher, "Imagine a Martian asks you, 'What is a tree?', what is your definition?" Wondering where he was going with this, everybody scribbled down something along the lines of "a tree is type of plant that has roots, a trunk, branches and leaves." But I couldn't write anything. The same definition came to my mind, but I was prevented from writing anything by a question of my own, namely, "A Martian doesn't know what a tree is, so how is it possible to describe what roots, a trunk, branches, and leaves are?" You could define each of those individual traits, but then how do you define the traits of the traits, and so on until you pass out from thinking too much. Then, our teacher brought in a bunch of shrubs and stuff, and played Martian's Advocate--"Is this a tree? It has roots, a wooden trunk, branches and leaves." When someone in the class would say that it wasn't a tree, the teacher asked why it wasn't. And it's true, our definitions lacked something. They were difintions for people who already knew what trees were.
On top of that, almost everybody drew a picture of the same type of tree, your average apple tree. I've never even seen an apple tree, but that's what I drew. Mine even had apples in it. Of course, Molly drew a palm tree. But I'm sure if they had apple trees at the beach, that's what she would have drawn.
So, what was the point? I'll answer the way my teacher did: "What's the point? Well, you see, a tree is...(bell clanging) well, it's time for your break." Just kidding, there was a real point, but I'm going to connect it to the next section of the course. Each culture has it's own way of looking at the world. When I, being from the West (culturally, not geographically), try to tell someone from the East why I'm going to put my parents in a retirement home (just kidding Mom and Dad), it is like explaining a tree to a Martian. They have no idea what it looks like to not take care of your parents/grandparents yourself. They will never understand it. Unless...
...you can find a way to communicate it to them. The best ways to accomplish this, immerse yourself in their language, culture, etc., until you begin to understand life the way they do. Then you can explain to them why you would abandon your parents in terms they can understand.
Jesus did something like this when he would talk with the religious people of his day. They had their own definition of what sin was, but he didn't correct them by saying that their definition was wrong and give them another definition, he did it through stories and analogies that SHOWED them what sin was. For example, when the rich young ruler told him "I've kept all the commandments since my youth," Jesus said, "This one thing you lack, go and sell all your belongings and give them to the poor." He wasn't telling the rich young ruler to obey THIS law and he would be saved, he was telling the rich young ruler that he hadn't really kept the law in the way he had thought. It is not disobedience that is a sin, but sin causes disobedience. Of course, I've lost all ability to think and write clearly, so it isn't airtight, but you get the picture...Jesus used every means possible to communicate sin as a concept, not just a list of things you shouldn't do.
Anyway, I hope all is well wherever you are.
Today I'm thankful for the renewal that comes from being out of the city for three weeks with a bunch of latinos and God. It was awesome.