A lot of people always ask me, “What makes Paris so different? So unique?” A lot of my explanations can be summed up in a rather simple way – it’s a hub for so many unique and differing cultures.
Looking and thinking more and more about it, I think that there’s a total of at least 20 nationalities that usually converge here in Paris. There’s something about this city that draws people from all corners of the globe, and having so many people here allows for a greater understanding of different cultures and their ‘norms’.
A few weeks back ago, at one of our English conversations, we stumbled upon the topic of “What do people stereotypically about your culture?” Being 1 of only 2 people from the United States in a group of more than 15 – with others being from countries like Tunisia, Algiers, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Morocco, Vietnam, and a couple French – the conversation undoubtedly became a little interesting.
There was somewhat of a unanimous decision that people think that Americans stereotypically have no interest in learning about other cultures in the world, and only want to change people to be conformed like them. This was followed up with a, “but the people who work here at Genesis don’t fit that mould.”
At first, I had to really analyse what was being said, as I hadn’t really thought too much about what certain cultures believe to be true about Americans on a deeper sense. At this point, I had the thought to respond in a way similar to their stereotypes.
I discussed how if that was true about the American culture, what was true about their own culture?
In layman’s terms, I asked if they had any interest in actually learning about the American culture, or if they just wanted to impose their own cultural practices on everyone else.
They couldn’t respond.
It wasn’t until one person from Algiers spoke up and said, “hmm, I’ve never really thought about that.”
In recent months, our conversation groups have been able to go more and more in depth with more intense topics, which has allowed for more growth, trust, and outreach happening here in the city.
Looking at it in hindsight, I think that by having the mentality of trying to understand a culture more, and not simply shutting them down due to their mentality, is an amazing way to build trust between people and foster a deeper level of trust.
As I’m writing this, I’m having the images of televangelists run through my head with their over eccentric personalities running rampant as they step on toes and push their argument with everything they’ve got. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not all like this, but that’s the stereotype of them that runs through my head.
Here’s my question to you all – what if we approached all our relationships and possible encounters with love? What if we actually, as a Church body, actually acted like Jesus and ‘hung out’ with the undesirables? What if we put aside our stereotypes, and instead spent time getting to know someone and their life? What would happen?
In my personal walk, I believe that the Holy Spirit is with me, and I have His light shining through me. Our intentions here, and really as Christians on a global scale, are to have people see God at work in us in an effort to have them wonder what sets us apart and where our joy and hope come from.
I’d encourage my readers to be more open to reaching out to those who people don’t normally associate themselves with. Be more willing to engage the members in the community that have been cast out. Be open to what the Bible tells us – Mark 2:17.
This isn’t to say to follow the ways of sinners, or to accept counsel from them. It is instead saying that if we are to truly evangelise and spread the Gospel, and make disciples of all nations, we will eventually need to encounter someone who is not yet a believer.
My challenge to you all this week is make a new relationship, and build on it to the point that you’re able to speak into their lives and share the Gospel with them.
Pray for discernment. Wait for His response. Be open to what He says. Go boldly.