Playing Telephone?

September 30, 2008

Imagine being in a room with a bunch of friends.  Now imagine you hear one of your friends sharing a grievance they have with you not to your face but to someone who then tells the person directly behind them the story.  This process goes through several people before getting to you.  What would you think?  I know one word would be sticking out in my mind: “gossip”.  However my thinking would not be common to man, it would be my cultural upbringing coming out.  The scenario I have just described is common to man.  That is, to specific men (and of course women) in Cote d’Ivoire, Africa.  

conversations_silhouettes_id228513_size450This case study on conflict was given to us today during one of our sessions and it got me thinking about the way I handle conflict.  In Cote d’Ivoire they live in small communities where everything is done out in the open, and their style of conflict resolution is reflective of that.  Their method isn’t divisive as I had originally thought.  In fact in being so open, so public, it gives the offender time to think about how they want to respond.  

This method of conflict resolution probably would sound crazy to most Americans, it did to me, until realizing how unhealthy my view of conflict is.  I flee conflict!  I would rather crawl under a rock that have an argument with someone.  Now it’s clear to see which method has the better potential to resolve smoothly.  

While I don’t have a full picture of how the Dutch handle conflict I realize I can count on it being different from my own practice.  Regardless of my uncertainty I know that conflict will arise sooner or later on the field and I will have to fight against my predisposition to avoid it.  This is an area in my life I know I need to grow in and the session today brought it back into the front of my mind for processing.



Have you ever felt like a salmon?  Weird I know, but this quote did just that for me:

“[The powers Jesus came to free us from] come in many forms, including…the American enterprise and its demands for individual self-fulfillment and consumer preference.  Jesus confronts and conquers the powers and the laws by which they wield power: he refuses to play by their rules and masters them rather than being mastered by them.  These fallen powers have lost their enslaving grip on people because of the new world order that Jesus has inaugurated in his death and resurrection” (Metzger, 70).

Its like Metzger just rolled back the  curtain on both American culture and the startling holism of the atonement.  Essentially, the point that is being made is that Jesus death on the cross did not just pay for my sins and change my legal standing before God, it also secures and declares the victory of God over everything–whether it is ideas, institutions, fallen powers, etc.  As Metzger points out, Jesus makes us free, not just from sin and death, but even from the brokenness of a fallen system like America’s current consumerist mentality.  Jesus has freed me from lying and lust, but he has also freed me from the American dream, from thinking of me first, from fighting to retain my upward mobility, and from becoming an upper-middle class family with a white picket fence, two point five kids and a gold fish.

Don’t get me wrong–I am not saying these things are inherently evil.  What I am saying, is that when Kate, Jude and I step on a plane in a couple of weeks, we will doing so in the full freedom of Christ.  What a refreshingly large vision of Christ and his work!  What a worthy revisioning of the reality Christ has made possible to those who love him!

Maybe this is just another step that God is bringing us through to help us prepare to unplug from American culture.  Maybe I will eat these words later on when we have spent some time getting aquainted with the Dutch dream.  Either way, I can only imagine that I have a lot more to learn about being a citizen whose allegience lies with the King who will return at the end of all things.

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