31 December 2020

Lane Family Update: 2020 See you...Never!


     I feel like I’ve aged 10 years this year. 2020 has been a decade. Both boys hit growth spurts, I’m going gray, and Christmas 2019 seems a very distant memory. The changes don’t stop. February of this year, Shep broken his arm and Mar flew with him to Kenya. Roscoe and I arrived in Kenya after not seeing Maridith and Shep for 2 whole weeks! It was a sweet reunion. We did all the things missionaries do in Nairobi: movies, dentist, pizza, restock. All was well. After a series of hospital visits and 2 casts, our oldest was patched up and ready to return to Chad. But there was one hang-up. The dentist noticed that one of Mar’s teeth had recently become a monarch and insisted a crown was needed.

            I took the boys back to Chad, Mar would be crowned and on a plane within the week. We heard about a virus somewhere in China but like you, didn’t give it a lot of thought…until, all the world’s airports “temporarily” closed. No problem, right? Well, what they didn’t tell us was what no one knew at the time. This virus was here to stay. Mar was stuck in Kenya, the boys and I were in Chad. The weeks rolled by. We did what we could to keep up the good work and not go bonkers. Finally, after two months we all took evacuation flights: first me and the boys to Tennessee, then Mar to Georgia… we were quarantining. We borrowed cars and houses and found kindness at every corner. Friends delivered sushi and fried chicken. We tried to keep it real. After 9 weeks apart, our family was finally back together in Quito, TN.

            Still, we didn’t know what this virus was. We expected to be back in Africa in just a few weeks, not 7 months. Well, it was 7 months. While in the US, we were amazed to see the opportunities we had to reconnect with churches, friends, and family. We went to the grocery store and it looked like a doctors’ convention. We drove empty streets. And ate Mexican food off the highway because downtown might explode in protest at any moment. America had become an odd place to evacuate to. The boys loved America, mostly the woods and the creek. Oh, and Roscoe developed an affection for Happy Meals, but only the toy, while Shep took up the family tradition of busting firewood. It was a blast.

            Alas, we all wake up from our dreams and some, like us, find real-life perplexing, abrasive, and a little dreamy too. The time was right to return to Africa. Mar packed our lives into 12 suitcases and Delta packed our family into four seats on three flights. Arriving back in Chad was surreal. We are finally where we belong, where all that God has put in us is put to use for Him. Our city is no tourist destination but we love it because God loves it. Or life is a gift to us—not a gift that we would have picked. If the Christian life was a game of Dirty Santa, I might give mine to you. But we are at peace and pleased to be of use, to be at rest, to be in love. Like Gus of Hippo put it:   


In your gift, we rest; there we delight in you. Our rest is our place. Love lifts us up there, and your good Spirit raises on high our lowliness from the gates of death. In a good will is our peace. A material object works its way toward its own place by means of its own weight. A weight doesn’t simply direct its course to the lowest level, but to its own proper place. Fire moves up, stone down. These things are in motion through their own weights, and they seek their own places. Oil poured underneath water rises to the top, and water poured on top of oil sinks underneath. They are set in motion by their own various weights, to seek their own places. Things that are not set in the order they should be are restless; once set there, they rest. My love is my weight. I’m carried by it wherever I’m carried. –Confessions, Book 13

03 May 2020

"The Stories We Tell, Tell a Lot About Us": a few thoughts on I Samuel 17:32-37

           I would like to take you to the cross-roads where God’s story of faithfulness interests with your story, my story, and the story of David, the young shepherd who took down a giant named goliath.
            Take a look at the book of first Samuel chapter 17. Here we will find ourselves in a story that is well known to many of us. However, by the end of this post I hope to challenge your ideas of what it means to be courageous, to be a shepherd, and to trust in God.
I want you to see how God has used you in the past to accomplish his will! You have been the instrument of God’s power in the world and his agent of grace to others. In our weariness, it is easy to forget how God has used you to fight his battles; to accomplish his purpose. You have many victories in your past and these past victories must affect how we fight today’s battles.
            We will look most closely at I Samuel 17:32-37 and learn from David’s response when he was questioned by King Saul regarding is ability to go up against the Giant. But before we do that allow me to set these verses in context by telling you the story of how David came to stand before Saul.
Now at this time the Philistines came out to fight against Saul and the men of Israel.  They took up positions on the top of a mountain. The men of Israel took up positions on top of another mountain and there was a valley between them.
From the Philistine camp, came their champion a giant called Goliath of Gath. He was a man of enormous size, almost 10 feet in height. He wore armor of bronze and fought with a spear, sword, and javelin. For 40 days the giant came out and shouted to the army of Israel “Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he can fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us. This day I defy the army of Israel. Give me a man, that we may fight against one another.”
When Saul and all of Israel heard the giant’s words they were greatly afraid.
But back in Bethlehem, there was an old man named Jesse who had 8 sons. His 3 oldest sons had followed Saul off to war. His youngest son was named David. He was the Shepheard of his father’s flocks. Sometime after the older sons had gone to war, Jesse told David to go and take this bread and cheese to your brothers and see if they are well.
So, David rose early, left the sheep with a keeper, took the food, and went off to find his brothers. When he came to the camp the men were just heading out to the battle lines. David found his brothers, and as he was talking with them, behold from the ranks of the enemy came the giant challenging the armies of the living God and all the men of Israel were afraid.
When David heard the words of the giant he said “What shall be done for the man who kills the Philistine and removes this shame from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, who thinks that he can defy the army of the living God.” But David’s older brother became angry with David and said “Why have you come here? And who is watching is watching your few sheep? I know the evil that you have in your heart. You have only come to see the fighting.” But David said “What have I done. I was only talking.” When Saul heard what David had said, he had David brought to him. Now David stood before Saul and said “Do not fear this giant. I will go out and fight him.” But Saul said to David. “You cannot fight this Philistine, you are too young and this man has been a warrior from his youth.”  But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when a lion, or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it, attacked the beast, and delivered the lamb out of its mouth. And if the animal arose against me, I caught it by his beard and killed it.  Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”  And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” Then Saul gave David with his armor.

How in the world do you go from the king refusing to let you fight to having the king’s blessing and personal armor? Let’s take a closer look at what David said in verse 32. 
David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

First, David was courageous when everyone else was afraid.
          Everyone one was afraid of Goliath, everyone except the Shepheard. David was the only one willing to God against the giant. David stood alone when he stood against the Goliath. The regular troops were unwilling to take the risk of losing and condemning the nation of Israel to slavery. I am not even sure if that factored into David’s thinking. David understood that work of God in his life. When David talked to Saul he makes no mention of risk. It is possible that David saw no risk. David had seen the power of God in his life and he know that with God the giant did not stand a chance.   
David knew that he was the man to fight the giant. He had been prepared by God to win this fight. The action that David took was the response that God had built into David. David could not stand there and listen to his God endure insults. You can hear the confusion in his voice. Why is no one else acting? David knew that the giant must be confront and he had no problem being the one to do it. It was the only thing that made sense to David. He did not tell his brothers you should really be out there fighting. He did not say to Saul, “What is your deal? You’re the one with all this nice armor. Why aren’t you out there trying to kill the giant?” You see shepherds don’t do that.
While living in the Africa I learned something about shepherds. Shepheard are the most hellacious fighters on the planet. And I have often been within earshot of their battles. In northern Uganda, I lived with a warrior people named the Karamojong. The Karamojong fought with anyone over cattle. I knew a soldier once that had been in many battles against the Karamojong. I asked him what it was like to fight these Shepherds. He said “shepherds are deadly because they do not fight like soldiers. We soldiers set undercover while the shepherds attack at night. We were many they were few but they would run through the darkness at a dead sprint holding only a spear and a rifle. As they ran they would throw the spear into the ground then quickly settle the rifle on the butt of spear and fire one round, barely breaking their stride. We would see the shepherd’s muzzle flash, but by the time we had turned our guns on him he was shooting us from behind.”
Shepherds fight to protect their livestock and shepherds fight to remove shame from their tribe or village. David’s reaction to Goliath makes since to a shepherd. But David was not your average shepherd. If you remember the story before this story, in I Samuel 16 verse 13 when Samuel anoints David the Scripture says that “…the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.” David was a shepherd with the power of God upon his life.      
 The New Testaments teaches that every Christians has the Spirit of God upon there their life (I Corinthians 2:11-14). The prophet Joel’s words were fulfilled in Acts chapter 2. The power of God in our lives is activated as we do what we are called to do. David, as a young man, was called to protect his father’s sheep. He protected his father’s sheep in the power of the Spirit of God. You may be called to parent, lead a business, work a job, minister full-time, or any other role that God in his sovereignty has placed you in. If you are in Christ you have his Spirit in your life. With the Spirit of God in our lives we are not like we were before we came to Christ. We are different. Sadly, many believers are far to simpler to non-Christians. Few things differentiate us from the culture. David was not like the other shepherds. David was not even like his brothers.
There will be times in our lives when we will have to stand up for God and we may be the only ones willing to take that stand. Throughout the history of the church there are many stories of one person standing down an army of opposition. When those who should have already been in the fight are too afraid to make a move you are impressed by the Spirit to take action. Please don’t doubt the power of God in your life when these times come. You may find yourself standing against your friends or family, but with God, you are always the greater force.
You may find yourself standing alone but know that you are not truly alone. You have the Spirit in you and likely you will find that there are others ready to charge once strike the first blow. Sadly, even the King was frightened by the giant. I am sure that he felt like he had the most to lose. As King he and his family would lose everything is he made a wrong move. Remember this was not a single event. Goliath did not come out to defy the army of Israel once. By the time David had arrived, Goliath was on day 40. The men of Israel were paralyzed with fear and Saul was no better. They had the means, the men, and the weapons, but what they did not have was courage. The men of Israel had lost heart. For some of you, you may find that you are not the strongest, wealthiest, or the best educated, but you have not lost your heart. I have often been encouraged by a younger brother or sister who did not overthink the situation but were ready to act on the truth of the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Often the person God uses is not considered by others to be the best equipped for the job. The soldiers in Saul’s ranks were armed for battle with only commons weapons. I imagine that to the soldiers David seems extremely underdressed for the occasion. Saul, too, considered David to be unarmed for battle.       
But David was armed for battle when entered Saul’s tent and he was armed with far more than a stick and sling. He had much more, he had stories!    
Let’s look again at verse 33.
           And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for      you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered the lamb out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”
Second, David’s courage was based on experience.
            David accepts the challenge to fight Goliath because he knows that he will win. David was not driven by blind rage; he was driven by what he had already done. His past experiences had thoroughly prepared him to fight and kill the giant. He had seen the power of God in his own life. When challenged by Saul David told Saul his story.
            When I first arrived in Chad I knew that it was going to be difficult. But I also knew that we would make it, not because I hoped that God would do something in the future, but because I had seen God work in my life in the past. In those dark days, I was both Saul and David. I questioned myself and I responded to these questions with stories from my own journey in service to Christ. I told myself stories of my life during South Sudan’s Civil war and being trapped by conflict and how God used our presence to proclaim his Gospel to the Dinka of Bar El-Gezal. I told stories of being dropped in the jungle for months at a time with one strategy, win people to Jesus. I told myself stories of challenging years of marriages, of sickness, of difficult pregnancies, and of souls saved out of absolute hopelessness.
Goliath was not David’s first fight. David had been in many fights. And so have you. Many of you fought battles as kids through difficult childhoods and God sustained you. Some of you have been through serious illnesses, personally or in your family and God brought you through it. A few of you have lived under threats of death and suffered attacks for following Christ and God has protected you. I want you to open your eyes to see how God has kept you for himself in big and small ways. God has lifted you up time and time again. It doesn’t always feel like it, but the Christian lives with constant access to the greatest power in the universe. We can trust God to show his power and even trust him for the results. God does not always work in the ways I would like him too. But I trust him to work in his ways, which are much higher than mine.
The amazing thing about David’s story is that he struck down the lion, but knew it was God who kept him from being struck down by the lion. Some of us, if we were David, would be telling this story in a much different way. We would be questioning why God even let lions and bears near our sheep. We might even blame God for the attack and attempted theft of the lamb. But David saw himself as God’s agent of protection. He did not wait for God to strike the lion with lighting. David stuck the lion himself knowing the power of God in his life.      
Verse 37.
          And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!”
Lastly, David’s courage was based on faith in God not faith in himself.
            David knew that the Lord had delivered him from the lion and the bear and that he would be delivered from the giant. His confidence was not blind faith but faith based on lived experience of God’s presence in his life. David was not so impressed with his own abilities to fight and win as with who he knew God to be. David’s courage was based on this theology. He knew God. Not only did he know God and believe God but he took him at his word and lived a life as a shepherd that proved the power of God in David’s life with every encounter with every lion or bear. David was living in God’s power and had survived to his young age only because of the work of God in his life. David knew God, he knew how God had used him in the past, and he knew how God wanted to use him that day in combat against the giant.
David did not offer Saul empty promises or an easy way out, if his idea didn’t work as planned. He offered action. He knew what needed to be done and he knew that he was the one to do it. I do not see David’s killing of Goliath as a miracle in itself; as if David was this weakling little boy and God performed a miracle in guiding the stone that killed Goliath. This is not a story of what God did not spite of David’s weaknesses, it is a story of what God did through David’s strengths. This is a story about what happens when some big slow giant messes with the wrong delivery boy empowered by the Spirit God, who also happens to kill lions and bears on the side. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Now let me summarize the rest of the chapter.
David put on Saul’s armor but it was useless to a shepherd. He could not fight in a way that was consistent with who he was. So, David took up his staff and 5 smooth stones and his sling and went out to fight the giant. The giant moved towards David and saw that he was only a boy. Goliath said to David “Am I a dog that you come at me with sticks?” The giant then cursed David by the Philistine gods and said: “Come here and I will feed your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild beast.” David then said to the giant “You come at me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come at you in the name of the Yahweh, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have insulted. Today the Lord will give you unto my hands and I will strike you down and cut off your head. I will feed the flesh of your army to the birds of the air and to the wild beast and all will know that there is a God in Israel and all here will know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. This battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into my hands.
The giant arose and moved toward David and David rushed towards the giant. David took out a stone and with his sling struck the giant. The stone sank into the forehead of the giant and Goliath fell to the ground. David killed Goliath with a stone, he had no sword. He ran up to the body of Goliath, took the giant’s own sword, and cut off his head. When the Philistine army saw that their champion was dead, they tried to escape but the men of Israel and Judah chased them up to Gath and the bodies of the Philistines fell along the way.         

Closing Application
       I am not sure if this fight was even close to fair. David was quick. Goliath was likely slow. Goliath’s heavy spear was a thrusting spear designed to break through armor and crush bone. David was a projectile fighter. He wasn’t going to get anywhere near Goliath’s close-range weapons. David fought in God’s power and God gave the result. But David was well prepared for this fight. He did not know it but God had been preparing David to kill this giant and secure victory for the armies of the Lord.            
                How has God worked in your life? You have the Spirit of God in your life but are you willing to go to battle and let God show his power in you. Are you like the older brothers, content to stand in the battle lines day after day living in fear? David was not perfect. He had many flaws and made many mistakes, but he knew where his power came from and what he needed to do when God called him to act.  


23 March 2020

How to make the most of your online education.

     I was 18 when I took my first online class. Now, here I am, 19 years later, and I’m still taking online classes! Over these 19 years, I’ve accumulated about 100 credit hours outside the classroom. The odd thing is these 100 hours were spread over 2 community colleges, 3 universities (USA & UK), and 3 seminaries. Each situation had its challenges and no two institutions were the same. I’ve had a lot of bad grades and a lot of good ones too. Every class was a learning experience on how to do the next one better. 
     As our situation demands, many of us are moving to online learning, some for the first time. Online education is remarkably different from traditional courses. In fact, it has little to do with the classroom. While online courses have their limitations, they also have massive opportunities that the classroom does not afford. Don't look at this time of isolation as a step away from the classroom but a step into integrating your education more fully with your life. Embrace it. Might as well. But remember that online classes are different. Some aptitudes and temperaments will suffer in the online format, while others will thrive. If you are unwilling to change your personal style of learning, you may find that an “A” student in the classroom becomes a “C” student online. However, you might also find that a “C” student in the classroom can become the “A” student online. Over these years, I've learned a few things that I'd like to pass on to you. Here are 5 things that have made my online journey a success.

1.        Be a self-motivator: There is no teacher standing upfront making sure you pay attention. Plan your semester. Plan your week. Plan your day. Be intentional about everything. Learn your personal patterns and what fits your family's situation best. Don’t put off stuff to the next day. If possible, assign yourself an allotted time each day to work on every class. Don’t procrastinate. All-nighters all alone banging out papers are miserable when you have to work, care for the kids, or just function the next morning. Try to get the syllabus early, read every word multiple times, and make notes. Checklists are your friends. I set aside Sunday night to plan the week. So, when I start my daily work, I have a short checklist of what I need to get done for that day. In this way, I normally need 5 hours a week for a 3-hour course.      

2.        Learn the platform: There are many platforms out there (Moodle, Blackboard, eLearn, etc.) and all of them are different. Also, every school sets up their platforms a little differently–it can be confusing. After you get your schedule set and learn the syllabus, get to know that platform. I expect to spend 1-2 hours learning the platform and how it is set up, before the first day of class. Click all the tabs, click the tabs inside the tabs. If you have a question, check YouTube.

3.       Get the right tools: Make sure your computer is up to date with plenty of memory and download any helpful programs or apps for your course. I use Grammarly, Logos, Kindle, Zoom, and, of course, everything in the basic Office 365 package. You’ll need to talk with your instructor to see if you should buy any field-specific programs. Always look for discounts. I called Logos.com and was offered a nice deal, but don’t buy anything that you can get for free through your institution or platform. For taking notes, I use medium-sized notebooks, which I've found to be the quickest way of taking notes and the most efficient method to study for exams (but maybe I’m just old-school). I use good pins and keep a small ruler on hand. Also, you might need a good place to organize your workspace. If you have an office, great. But also, a nicely divided backpack can go a long way to keeping your workspace easy to set up, if you don’t always work at the same desk. You might also need a printer, audio equipment, who knows what?, check the syllabus and talk with your instruction.   

4.       Make sure you have a support group: It's easy for those in your life to not take your education seriously when it's hidden online. There are no football games or cafeterias. You might even find it hard to think of yourself as a student. But, alas, you are. It's important to talk to your family or roommates about your schedule and goals. Ask for their input and listen to what they have to say. Talk to real live people about what you're learning. Get a friend to meet (possibly, online) once a week to talk about what you are both learning. Don’t dump all your trivial conversations on your spouse or roommates. They love you but when you keep interjecting Pre-Renaissance literary ideas into the conversation, it gets really annoying! My wife taught me that one. 

5.       Know your limitations: You only have so much time, energy, and money. No one class is worth damaging a valued relationship. Don’t be afraid to drop a class or put it off till next year. Trust me. With online classes, you can come back to it later. I’m currently finishing up a degree that I withdrew from in 2013. At that time, my first child was just born, we had little money, and less time to spare. Unfortunately, many universities are using online education as a cash cow. The education is poor and the price is high. Avoid these like a cough on a bus. There are good universities with poor online programs and small schools with great online classes. So, be careful and don’t get stuck paying what you can’t afford for an education you won’t get. If your situation changes (sickness, move, pregnancy, marriage, crisis), write to your instructor ASAP and tell them what's happening. There's a lot that can be done to adjust your workload if you let the teacher know in time. I wrote one of those emails last Saturday.

These 5 things will get you off to a good start. Know that you are not alone; there are zillions of us online these days. It will be difficult and there will be days when it all falls apart. That’s OK. What matters is what you do the next day.


15 March 2020

on giving up

   A blog is probably not the best place to say this... I'd prefer a café. But I want you to know that I question my faith and so should you. When I left the States many years ago, I got slammed by all the junk in this messed up world. Questions like "Who is God?," "Why does bad stuff happen?," "Who really gets into heaven?," and for crying out loud, "Who am I?!"
      None of these questions are easy. I have been struggling to answer these for 20 years. The search for answers has led me to live with a beautiful tribe in Peru, make my home in war-torn South Sudan, walk many paths in northern Uganda and, presently, live among Muslims in Chad. Everywhere I go I find others trying to answer these same questions. I don't show up with all the answers but offer to struggle together with them as we seek a deeper life.
      I question my faith because I know that I don't have it all figured out. I love to question God because He LOVES to answer me! I am not looking for simple answers... I am looking for illumination. Augustine said, "The world is a book; those who don't travel only read one page." My questions have led me through many adventures of pain, sacrifice, and joy. I love it. I want more! I need to read more of the book to get more of the answer. I have to question my faith because I want a pure faith. I want the faith of Finnius, Abraham, Judson, Moon, Aquinas, Paul, and my grandmother. This faith is not easy, but it is worth it. So, to my fellow questioners, let us press on into deeper worlds and ancient texts; into the rabbit-hole inside us all. May we not only seek answers but become part of the questions. May your journey lead you further than the back door.

How Multiculturalism Encourages A Better System Of Ethics

The Church as a Multi-Cultural Community
            Throughout the history of the church, God’s people have often been found in multi-ethnic and cross-cultural communities. The cultural diversity of the catholic church has given the church great strength and great challenges. Christian ethics when practiced by a monocultural community often gravitates towards the accepted morals of its pre-Christian culture. However, multicultural communities maintain a stronger contrast in moral judgments making non-Christians ethics easier to tease-out.
When assumptions from one group are not held by another, the community is pushed deeper into Scripture as their ethical source. The process of establishing a Christian ethic within a multicultural community is more difficult but renders a well-thought-out system less prone to integrate non-Christian beliefs into a supposed Christian ethical system.  
            Today, much is made of the successes and failures of God’s people as a diverse community, maintaining various cultures, but holding to a common system of ethics. While the multicultural nature of the church throughout history is a fascinating case study in its own right, the scope of this paper will focus on the first Christians in Palestine and the Roman Empire. Here we find the church embracing new forms of cultural and linguistic expression due to the integration of new people groups and worldviews. The ethical dilemmas, which were aptly handled by the church, came from the new Faith’s ability to cross-cultural boundaries and challenge the ethics of the day, most notably the Jewish Law. The first Christians were made up primarily of Jewish converts. Conflicts arose as some in the early church tried to maintain a Jewish system of ethics and a Christians view of the world. The dissidence this produced is felt in issues concerning circumcision, the keeping of the Old Testament Law, and dietary practices. The focus of this paper will be on one issue found in Acts 6 relating to the distribution of food.  
In the last sections, I will apply the early church’s approach to resolving ethical dilemmas within a multicultural community to our current situation and show how multicultural communities create the healthiest environment to maintain and apply Christian ethics.          
              The first Christians were Jews who had accepted the person of Jesus as the expected Messiah.[1] However, these Jews were not a monolithic culture as some might imagine. The book of Acts provides a window into the diversity of the Jewish people.[2] The peoples collected under the umbrella nomenclature of Jews were those who ascribed to the Jewish religion–primarily in the adherence to the Law of Moses. Many who self-identified as Jewish had different nuanced theology, first languages, geographical allegiances, and ethnic backgrounds. A large portion of the Jews where not Hebrew speaking.
After Alexander the Great’s eastern conquest in the 4th century, much of Palestine took on the Greek language, culture, and mercantile systems. However, the assimilation of Greek culture did not displace local systems of morals and beliefs.[3] This left some Jews more Hellenized than others. The Greeks were the most influential outside-force on the Jews, but they were not the only cultural affecting the Jews of the first century. These Jews held in recent memory deep cultural intrusion by the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and the Persians.[4]
Due to Palestine’s location as the maritime crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe, many Jews of the first century would have had commercial relationships with various people groups. Within all Jewish settlements of any size, multiple mores could be found along the broad continuum considered to be Jewish culture.   
 Jews in dispersion were more likely to take on other cultural elements out of necessity; however, the Jews of Palestine were a more insulated group not wanting to defile themselves by seeming less-Jewish by acquiring other cultures. Josephus, writing in the first century, tells of the low status associated with multilingualism when he said, “For our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations…because they look upon this sort of accomplishment as common, not only to all sorts of freedmen, but to as many of the servants that are pleased to learn them.”[5]  To be multicultural, in the traditional Jewish worldview was to diminish one’s association with the People of God. Christianity stood in contrast to many of the traditional assumptions within the Jewish culture. Multiculturalism was encouraged by the leading of the Holy Spirit on numerous occasions, notable on the day of Pentecost[6] and Peter in the home of Cornelius.[7] The multicultural nature of the early church follows from the teaching and Life of Jesus. 
While the Jewish religion was followed with a largely exterior ethic, Jesus taught a faith that was based on interior beliefs motivating right action.[8] The contrast between the Jewish motivation for ethical living and that of Christianity is observable in the early church’s moral dilemma regarding the feeding of widows:
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.[9]

When problems arose in the early church some ethnically Jewish Christians tried to apply Jewish morality to the problem. When the Jewish Law is applied to the situation found in Acts 6, some mistakenly sought to divide the community based on linguistic/cultural lines; however, where the Law divides, Jesus brings the community together. The early church leaderships struggled to develop a new ethical system based on the teachings of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. There are many ways to look at this account. Here I want to focus the attention simply on the two ethical systems in play: the Jewish culture based on the Law and the nascent Christian worldview based on the person and teachings of Jesus.     
The early church had to press beyond Jewish solutions to ethical dilemmas in the community of God. Jewish history only took the early church so far in dealing with issues relating to multiculturalism. The modern reader can easily pass over these verses and miss the moral dilemma. Is it appropriate for Greek-speaking, culturally Hellenistic Christians to prepare and serve food for Aramaic-speaking, culturally Hebraic Christians? The Apostles knew that if these two groups of Jewish Christians could not serve one another and eat as one people then there is little hope for those of greater cultural and ethnic diversity to come together as one people in Communion. After this event, the moral dilemma appears again in Antioch when Peter separated himself from non-Jewish Christians during mealtime.[10] Paul sees the future possibility of Peter’s “hypocrisy”. If the church cannot eat a common meal together, how can a multicultural church be obedient to the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper? In this context, Paul reevaluates the Law in light of the grace found in Jesus’ sacrificial death. The command of Jesus to “go and make disciples of all nations”[11] requires the church to take on a multicultural identity.
Jewish solutions had to be redefined in distinctively Christians ways. The core of the Christian community had to be their faith in Christ, which superseded all other cultural identities. The writer of Hebrews identifies Jesus as the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy.[12] Jesus as Messiah-for-all protected new Christians from falling away from faith in Christ due to seeing Jesus as the Messiah for only the Jews or possibly a Messiah for some but not the Jews. F. F. Bruce points out that the reason the writer of Hebrews identifies Jesus as the Old Testament Messiah is so the Jew who did not believe in Jesus as Messiah would be guilty of apostasy.[13] Thus making belief in Jesus as Messiah a requirement for every devote Jew.      
From the church’s Jewish roots, it quickly grew outside of the traditionally Jewish language, culture, and ethical system. On the day of Pentecost, the church is born out of a multicultural group of people who were shocked not only by the truth they heard but that it was understood in various languages.[14] The Gospel had become multilingual and multicultural under the power of the Holy Spirit. From the ministry of the Apostles, the church crosses social barriers and moves into cities that were famous for their diversity. When the community of God freed itself from a single cultural identity a new Christian ethic emerged. No longer was the church’s morals tied to one people’s identity as an ethnic nation, now the church was free to contextualize Christian morality for all people.    
Paul was the church’s great missionary. Under his leadership, the church grew geographically and crossed social boundaries. The Gospel had become global, a gospel-for-all especially the disadvantaged and the poor.[15]  Every push of the church into new lands was accompanied by increased diversity. By the end of the first century the Church, which had been primarily a Greek or Aramaic speaking community, had now incorporated language communities throughout the Mediterranean and possibly much further. The organic growth of the church was made possible, in part, by the freedom of young Christians to authenticate faith in Jesus as Messiah into indigenous forms unhindered by established expectations. In Christianity, a new ethical system was born where believers could take on a new form of beliefs without adopting the cultural trappings of earlier forms of Christianity. New churches were free to use their languages, calendars, and local spaces to worship Jesus as Messiah and God. Christian ethics could be assimilated with minimum cultural baggage.       
            Timothy Tennent gives this post-mortem on Christianity in the west: “The western world can no longer be characterized as a Christian society/culture… Christendom has collapsed and twenty-first-century missions must be conceptualized on new assumptions.”[16] Below, I want to consider one of these new assumptions–multiculturalism as a theological and missiological necessity.
The church in the west is often characterized as bigoted and racist. These claims are not unfounded. Too often the church remained silent when a prophetic voice was needed. The church must come to a deeper understanding of its truest identity. Like the first-century church, we must realize that son-ship in Christ supersedes all citizenship. If we do not see our core identity as the community of Christ, then we will be tempted to play the game of identity politics, where others tell us what groups we belong to and how we should think. Christian ethics are a universal consequence of faith in Jesus not adherence to a given people's historically evolving system of morals. The American church has flirted far too closely with humanism as a foundation for its ethic. Indeed, many church-goers today cannot untangle biblically bound morals and historically evolving western ethics that embrace relativism.
Moral conflicts often arise in multicultural congregations over issues of sexuality and the sanctity of life. Two cultures within a congregation might affirm opposing morals and both claim to base their morals on Scripture. Often our long-held beliefs are shown to be unbiblical when juxtaposed with another culture’s opposing belief. Ethics can be described as a differential system where clarity is found in contrast. Culturally relative ethics are exposed within multicultural communities because many moral perceptions are shown to be more local than universal.[17] For this reason, the church needs to press into new cultures to expose the faults in our theology and further deepen and purify our Christian ethics.    
David Platt reminds us that “The body of Christ is a multicultural citizenry of an otherworldly kingdom, and this alters the way we live in this ever-changing country.”[18] The truth of this statement should cut us deeply. Unfortunately, many churches around the world are more centers for local culture than an “otherworldly kingdom” expressing itself in the local culture. The church should be in the world, but not of the world.[19] The struggle to find our identity in Christ and not culture is the same struggle that the first-century Jewish Christians found themselves in. At our core, who are we? Are our closest allegiances to nations and worldviews or are we at our core the family of God in Christ? Sadly, our ethics have so fallen in line with contemporary politics that a conservative Christian has a system of ethics more like his conservative Jewish neighbor than a liberal Christian of the same home church.      
If we resist multiculturalism and divide ourselves culturally, we will always see ourselves as less-than-authentic members of any church that is not our own culture. Many missionaries have made this mistake. We get so used to being the foreigner that we believe ourselves to be the foreigner even when we shouldn’t. The western church has delineated itself so thoroughly from the rest of the world that we no longer believe we should be a multicultural community. This vice has taken opportunity in the recent mistaken missiology that seeks to divide Christians into categorically different groups with one ideal church for each culture. Possibly, for the first time in Church history, the western Church is more commonly characterized by its lack of multiculturalism than by its diversity. Many church and Christian institutions have fallen deeply into a confirmation bias where we most closely associate with those who affirm our beliefs and assumptions.   
From the earliest days of the church, multiculturalism was the expected challenge to be dealt with in a biblical manner, not something to be avoided by further dividing Christians in to their smallest cultural denominator. The early church came up with answers that reflected their identity as a multicultural community not separate monocultural communities.
Separating the community of Christ into various insulated groups leads to unbiblical
hierarchy between churches, which is the very thing the apostles were trying to avoid in Acts 6. The church is far too divided and there are some who would divide the church even further. Some say that western Christians should fund missions, not be on mission.[20] Believers from the developing world should be “missionaries to their own people” but not to others. Western Christians can teach theology, but not educate non-western Christians to do theology.
            If we are not careful, we will see a Christian class system emerge from social and economic status ignoring maturity in Christian living. If Paul applied to one of our mission organizations today, might we post him at a well-respected seminary and tell him to use his training and theological insight, but leave the church planting to those who can’t afford an education. Would we tell Peter that he’s too old to learn a new language and leave the pioneering work to younger missionaries? If we were confronted with the same problem as the church in Acts 6, would we find the solution in an early and late service or even a Saturday night meal for the Aramaic speakers? No doubt it was hard dealing with the issues inherent to multiculturalism in the church, but the foundation of multiculturalism gave the church the dynamic nature it needed to become a global community. Multicultural churches,
when grounded in Christ and not stuck in the conflicts of the past, are the healthiest communities to apply Christian ethics to a multicultural world.[21]                                        
            One of the major challenges the church is facing today is the lack of multiculturalism within our hermeneutical community. For far too long theology has been written primarily from a western-Anglophone perspective. This perspective is not incorrect, but it is incomplete. Western theology has done a good job of addressing western ethical issues, however, western theologians quickly find themselves out of depth when addressing ethical dilemmas within the spirit-world or even our current refugee crisis.     
The monocultural tone of our theology textbooks does not reflect the diversity of the Christian faith historically. The lack of cultural diversity in recent theological writings has made contextualizing Christian ethics for non-western cultures extremely hard to do. We are better at contextualizing forms of worship, then contextualizing kinship systems and sexuality in many areas of Africa. Jackson Wu makes this statement, “The question of how to hold fast to one gospel while at the same time seeking many faithful cultural forms in the various nations and cultures of the world is as pressing today as it ever has been.”[22]
As a westerner, I benefit greatly from reading western theologies, but how much more would the west benefit from a multiplicity of cultures doing theology from a distinctively Christian worldview. All theologies emphasis and de-emphasis ideas and events based on culturally bound ethical systems. This is human nature and is not in itself wrong. It is only harmful when other perspectives are either intentionally silenced or unintentionally underdeveloped. When I was a teacher as a seminary in Uganda for a semester, I was unsettled to walk the bookshelves of the seminary’s library and see the dearth of African theologians. Our African brothers and sisters are being giving answers to questions that they are not asking, while their most urgent ethical dilemmas are being ignored.   
Our multicultural foundation is underexploited when tackling the issues of today’s morality. The growth of the church into new cultures has always been a difficult process. Changing the focus and mode of worship is relatively simple when compared to displacing a culture’s traditional system of ethics. The radical nature of Christian ethics makes application difficult but no less necessary. The church must regain her multiculturalism in order to maintain a healthy Christian ethical system that is robust enough to answer the questions our pluralistic societies are asking. There is much the church can learn from looking deeply into our early history. The New Testament is a mountain of wisdom to be mined in dealing with contemporary issues.

[1]. Henry Chadwick. The Penguin History of the Church: The Early Church. Vol. 1.
Penguin UK, 1993.
[2]. Acts 6

[3]. Eric M Meyers. "The challenge of Hellenism for early Judaism and Christianity."
The Biblical Archaeologist 55, no. 2 (1992): 84.
[4]. Andreas J Köstenberger., L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles. The cradle, the cross, and the crown. B&H Publishing Group, 2009.
[5]. Flavius Josephus. The works of Josephus. Рипол Классик, 1980: 127.
[6]. Acts 2

[7]. Acts 10

[8]. Matthew 5-7
[9]. Acts 6:1-4 (NIV)
[10]. Galatians 2:11-21  
[11]. Matthew 28:19 (NIV)
[12]. Hebrews 1
[13].  F. F. Bruce. The epistle to the Hebrews. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing,
[14]. Acts 2
[15]. Bruce W, Longenecker "Remember the Poor." Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans

(2010): 1.

[16]. Timothy C Tennent. Invitation to world missions: A Trinitarian missiology for the
twenty-first century. Kregel Academic, 2010: 18.
[17]. Domènec Melé, and Carlos Sánchez-Runde. "Cultural diversity and universal

ethics in a global world." (2013): 681-687.

[18]. David Platt. Counter Culture: Following Christ in an Anti-Christian Age. Tyndale
House Publishers, Inc., 2017: 213.
[19]. John 17:14-17
[20]. K. P Yohannan. Revolution in world missions. Gfa Books, 2004.

[21]. Stephen A Rhodes. Where the nations meet: The church in a multicultural world. InterVarsity Press, 2013: 90.
[22]. Jackson Wu. One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical
Contextualization. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2015: loc 158.