1 Corinthians 13

What does effective cross-cultural missionary work look like? The thirteenth chapter of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (the "love chapter") is a good place to start.

Missionary version

I may be able to speak fluently the language of my chosen field
     and even understand its culture,
          but if I have no love, the impact of my speech is no more for Christ
          than that of a businessman who comes to exploit the people.
I may have the gift of contextualizing God's word when I deliver it to my hearers,
     I may have all knowledge about their customs,
          I may have the faith needed to combat witchcraft,
               but if I have no love, I am nothing.
I may give everything that I have to the poor, to the hungry in the favelas;
     I may even give my life for them,
          but if I have no love, this does no good.
Love is . . .
     thinking in their thought patterns,
          caring enough to understand their world view,
               listening to their questions,
                    feeling their burdens,
                    respecting them,
                         identifying with them in their need,
                              belonging to them.
Love is eternal.
     Cultures pass away.
          Dynamic equivalents will change because cultures change.
               Patterns of worship and church administration will need revision.
                    Languages will be altered over time.
                         Institutions will be replaced.
                              . . . Because these are not reality.
Since I am finite, I can only study how to express the Message cross-culturally,
     trying to free it from my cultural bias.
I am able to do this only in a limited way,
     but I pray that the Spirit will use my life to show Christ to those with whom I work.
Meanwhile these remain . . .
     Identification,
          Contextualization
               and
                    Love,
                         But the greatest of these is Love.

-- Jean McCracken (Sao Paulo, Brazil)

Evangelical Missions Quarterly, © June, 1979, p. 151. Used by permission.

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