Winsome faith is deeply empathetic  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , , ,

In his fascinating and helpful book, Cultural Intelligence, David Livermore argues that Christian faithfulness in a globalized world includes deepening our “ability to effectively reach across the chasm of cultural differences in ways that are loving and respectful.” One part of that includes the need to learn empathy. Of being able to see things from another’s perspective, not merely from our own. Of being able to enter their world and life view, their way of seeing, so that we can catch of glimpse of their situation as they are actually experiencing it. “The point” Dr Livermore says, “is not to respect different religions merely for political correctness, but instead, to truly become incarnational in seeking to empathetically identify with what following Jesus will mean for an individual.” And then he tells of a conversation between a young woman and her missionary mother:

“Mom, wait a minute,” Emma said to me. Something had been troubling her ever since she first came home from school. “What would you say if...” I set the plates back on the table and sat down. “What would you say if I told you I was going to become a Hindu?”

It was a good thing I sat down. “What did you say Emma?” I stalled.

“What would you say if I told you I was going to become a Hindu?” She didn't take her eyes off my face.

“You’re not joking?” I knew she wasn’t. Her deep brown eyes could not have been more serious.

“I am not joking,” Emma replied.

What was there for me to say? The sweet, earnest, devout child before me, flesh of my flesh, a Hindu?! I had never thought of her in any way except as a child of Christ. I had failed her, and I had failed God. I had failed the other missionaries and the Indian Christians. How could I face anybody? All this came over me in a flash, and I was then more deeply shamed in the realization that my first reaction was one of loss of face.

She let me sit in silence until the whole impact of what she had said sank in. I saw her whole life before me including her marriage to.... Where was her father?! Perhaps he would be able to cope with this better than I could.

I must have looked very stricken, for she suddenly said, “I’m sorry, Mom. I just want you to know how Rani’s mother will feel. Rani is going to tell her mother, this vacation, that she is going to become a Christian. It will affect her family as deeply as it would affect you if I became a Hindu.”

Source: Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World by David A. Livermore (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic; 2009) pp. 160-161.

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