Friday, March 22, 2013

Strange Cultural Practices

Often, I feel that American culture has rejected every nuance of uniqueness. The only thing we've got going here in America is making sure everyone has their own, personal space. Distance. This is one of the defining qualities of Western culture: the idea that we have to be an arm's length away from everyone, not look at strangers in the eyes, keep quiet in public places, etc. It's a cold way of operating, and outside of this, there aren't many unique quirks that are identified as specifically American, as there are in other cultures.

In Hungary, it is a tradition for boys to throw water at girls on Easter Monday. Some sections of Burmese culture use neck rings to achieve giraffe status. The women of a tribe in Vietnam paint their teeth with an opaque black dye. Romanians have a Women's Day. Not Mother's day - Women's Day. All of them.

The Chinese, however, have a tradition that mandates how a gift is to be received. When a gift is offered, it must be rejected by the receiver three times before it can be taken. It is often uncomfortable if the giver doesn't offer the gift more than once. This tradition, though not as prominent as it used to be, still has its part in Chinese society.

You wouldn't, however, reject the gift a fourth time. Or fifth. Or sixteenth. Or over years of time.

"So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous." (Romans 11)
The Israelites had this bad habit of rejecting the gift of salvation that God was trying to give them. If you want to get a little background as to how the Israelites did this, check out Jeremiah 32. They consistently and persistently rejected the God who brought them into existence, effectively resisting the gift that He had for them.

I don't know about you, but when I have a gift that someone doesn't want to accept, I start looking around for someone else to give it to. And that's exactly what God did here.
"Then you will say, 'Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.'" (Romans 11)
That might be somewhat abstract, so lemme put it this way: God, in response to the Jews' rejection, opened the path for everyone, not just the Israelites, to come to Him. In the past, God's gift was meant to be shared with His chosen people, but He was now opening the door so that all may come to Him. In other words, because of the negative aspect of Israel's rejection, God created the positive aspect of salvation for all.
"Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!" (Romans 11)
If God can make such a messed up situation a blessing, how much more will he be able to bless a good situation? Look, a lot of times, I write stuff to get you thinking and possibly convicted on certain things, and if I've accomplished that, then hallelujah. But, this week, I'm not writing to really point out anything other than the fact that we serve a God who is great.

So great, He makes beauty out of the broken. So great, that He uses things that are foolish to shame the wise. So great, He does everything in His own perfect timing - giving us what we need at the exact moment we needed it. So great, He keeps giving.

Even if it's the fourth time He's offered.


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