ArticlesPoetry Aug 9, 2015 Christian, Culture, Racism
Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Article by Ifeoluwapo Eleyinafe Creator and author,

Sub­sume your cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty to your re­la­tion­ship with God.

How Cul­ture Forms Iden­ti­ty

Very of­ten peo­ple di­vide them­selves along cul­tur­al lines. It usu­al­ly works like this: First I re­al­ize that I am born into a par­tic­u­lar cul­ture. That means I do things like this, like that and not like that. This cul­ture, as we have dis­cussed be­fore, is my wall. This cul­ture helps to de­fine my iden­ti­ty. To fur­ther ce­ment this iden­ti­ty, I find oth­er peo­ple who think like me and act like me and I form a com­mu­ni­ty with them. They es­sen­tial­ly be­come, in a sense, my church. Every cul­ture comes with a men­tal­i­ty or ap­proach to en­gag­ing the world be­cause of how they see them­selves in it. Some cul­tures, have through a lot of op­pres­sion from oth­er cul­tures, ac­quired an “us against the world” men­tal­i­ty. This men­tal­i­ty is a part of their cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty. Some cul­tures through op­pres­sion of oth­er cul­tures have ac­quired a men­tal­i­ty of su­pe­ri­or­i­ty.

What then does this mean for a Chris­t­ian who is also a part of a cul­ture? For ex­am­ple, what does it mean to be a Chris­t­ian who is also Yoru­ba? Or a Chris­t­ian ath­lete? Or a Chris­t­ian artist and so on and so on? Ath­letes gen­er­al­ly have to be­have one way and some­times their Chris­tian­i­ty may con­flict with their be­hav­ior in the ath­lete cul­ture. The same goes for sci­en­tists and artists and so on. As you can see, there ap­pears to be a con­flict. Is it true then that you have to choose your Chris­tian­i­ty or your cul­ture?

Chris­t­ian > Cul­ture

There is a con­flict be­tween my re­la­tion­ship with God and all oth­er things that strive to be the root of my iden­ti­ty. But it is not a zero sum game where God wins and your cul­ture has to go and vice ver­sa. In­stead, it is a lord­ship, king of the hill kind of game. It is not that I must choose to be a Chris­t­ian or an ath­lete. It is that I must choose to be a Chris­t­ian first be­fore I choose to be any­thing else. My re­la­tion­ship with God al­ways has to come first. Let us re­mem­ber that all cul­tures, ide­olo­gies and oth­er sources of iden­ti­ty not sub­mit­ted to God will fail. When they fail, the per­son who has found­ed his iden­ti­ty on these things will be swept away Matt 7:26-27. He will lose his or her iden­ti­ty.

If you are a Chris­t­ian and you are striv­ing to make your re­la­tion­ship with God the source of your iden­ti­ty then sub­mis­sion to God is your cen­tral goal John 14:15. This means that God is your cen­ter. This means that every oth­er role or cul­ture con­tributes to your iden­ti­ty only to help ce­ment your re­la­tion­ship with God. It also means that if any part of your cul­ture con­tra­dicts your re­la­tion­ship with God, then you ei­ther have to find a com­pro­mise that keeps God as Lord or leave that part of your cul­ture com­plete­ly be­hind.

How It Can Play Out

Con­sid­er if a black Chris­t­ian met a white Chris­t­ian. They’re both be­liev­ers in the Lord but there is a his­to­ry of overt and sub­tle op­pres­sion be­tween their two cul­tures. Yet they are both first and fore­most Chris­t­ian. What does this mean? Well God or­ders us to bear one an­oth­er’s bur­dens, to mourn with those who mourn and re­joice with those who re­joice Gal 6:2, Rom 12:15, Col 3:13. If God is my Lord, then I as a white Chris­t­ian, be­cause I want to main­tain my re­la­tion­ship with God, will seek to feel the pain of my black broth­er and rec­og­nize the un­just dis­par­i­ty be­tween how the world treats us. If God is my Lord, then I as his black broth­er will strive to con­stant­ly and pa­tient­ly for­give my broth­er for any mis­con­cep­tions he has while guid­ing him into a greater un­der­stand­ing of who I am in Je­sus. It means that I as a white Chris­t­ian will not be an­gry when my black broth­er makes as­sump­tions about my na­ture be­cause of my skin col­or. It means that I as his black broth­er will strive to trust him by open­ing up my heart and home to him.

Through pa­tience and love, both will reaf­firm to each oth­er that they are new crea­tures in Christ 2 Cor 5:16-18. They are not black or white. They are Chris­tians be­fore they are a part of any cul­ture. Note that this doesn’t mean a black Chris­t­ian gives up black cul­ture or a white Chris­t­ian gives up white cul­ture. But it does mean that both the black Chris­t­ian and the white Chris­t­ian bring their cul­ture into sub­mis­sion to their re­la­tion­ship with Je­sus Christ. They will there­fore, put to death any part of their cul­ture that does not hon­or Christ and make ser­vants of those parts of their cul­ture that do (hon­or Christ).

Af­ter all, the most im­por­tant thing is not to be white or to be black but to be Chris­t­ian through re­la­tion­ship with God Luke 10:20,42. Be­cause Paul was Chris­t­ian first and Jew sec­ond, he was able to reach out with the love of the gospel to many peo­ple Rom 1:16, 10:12, 1 Cor 9:20-22 in­clud­ing mas­ters and slaves Phile­mon 9-10, 15-17. We should all strive to do the same. Watch be­low to hear some­one who says all this bet­ter.

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