Scriptures: Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 5:1-2
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.” Novelist L. P. Hartley's opening line in “The Go-Between” resonates with me.
It does so because I'm an author of historical fiction set during the English Reformation. My research has shown me how different life was in 1500s England than in today's Western world. The differences aren't seen only in food, housing, clothes and transportation. The two time periods have totally different worldviews.
It also resonates because I'm a missionary in Hong Kong. While Chinese make up 93% of the population, the remaining 7% represent a diversity of cultures and religions. Over the last 40+ years I've worked with people from three different nationalities, each with its own worldview, and have had casual contact with others. I don't have to go back to the past to find myself in places where they do things differently.
These differences even show in how people view holidays.
The three day CNY holiday is a different matter. For Chinese residents, it's the most important holiday of the year. The focus is on getting as much good luck in the coming year as possible. So you eat the lucky foods, visit the temple to get your fortune told, put up “god of wealth” posters by your door and avoid cleaning house during the holiday since you don't want to sweep your luck away. Decorations reflecting the worldview of traditional Chinese religion are everywhere.
Returning to Hartley's opening line. As a Caucasian and US citizen, I'm a foreigner here in Hong Kong and I do things differently than the local Chinese.
As a follower of Christ, 1 Peter 2:11-12 makes it clear that, regardless of my earthly citizenship, I'm a foreigner and alien wherever I live. I'm to do things differently from the world around me.
I'm not the center of my universe. God is. Everything I have comes from Him (1 Cor. 4:7) and I'm created to serve Him (Eph. 2:10). Everything I do should bring Him glory. (1 Cor 10:31)
I'm to treat everyone, friend and enemy alike, as God would treat them. (Matt 5:43-48) I'm to listen before speaking (James 1:19-20) and quit complaining and arguing. (Phil 2:14) I'm to share with those in need. (Romans 12:13) Matthew 22:37-39 best sums up this different worldview.
Here's my question. Am I truly doing things differently from the world?
God has the answer. Whatever it is, his answer will always come with love.