These pages have often wrestled with the issue of gospel enculturation—the question of how much we adapt the message we preach to the culture in which we dwell. It's such a complex question that the wisdom and righteousness (or lack thereof) of our attempts at preaching the gospel in a culturally sensitive way will be displayed finally on that last great day. But my last post on character and hope has lead me to a test that we might apply to our gospel preaching.
Paul's words in Romans 5 about the connection between suffering, perseverance, character and hope reminded me of Paul's constant teaching on suffering and his (you might almost say) desire to suffer (e.g. Phil 3:10-11). I take it that Paul wasn't eager to suffer for suffering's sake, but he was eager to suffer because it was the proof that he belonged to Jesus.
This is was what made Paul so dangerous. In spite of his determination to submit to the authorities (e.g. Rom 13:1-7), he was also never willing to be silenced for the cause of comfort and peace. That's why, I suspect, he was an object of equal fascination and terror for those who ruled (see, for example, his conversations with Agrippa and Festus in Acts 25-26). Paul's integrity and godliness made him attractive. But his unwillingness to bow to social pressure made him scary.
In our gospel enculturation, we ought always be looking for the kinds of disciples it produces. Does it produce people of godly integrity who are both profoundly attractive and yet dangerously subversive?
There is no doubt that a Korean doesn't need to become an Aussie to become a Christian. Nor does an Indian need to become a Turk. But what should always ensue from faithful gospel preaching is Koreans who don't quite fit in with other Koreans and Indians who aren't quite Indian. People who are genuinely converted and who are now living under the Lordship of Jesus will always be slightly square pegs.
The question for me is what is it about my Christian life that might cause others to squirm? If there's nothing, then I have some serious questions to answer.