“But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: ‘Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.’ Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them” (Acts 14:14-18).
If you look in the center of the picture, a woven bag hangs from a tree. In that bag is food. Why hang it from a tree?
Barnabas and Paul ran into confusion during a trip. They had healed a lame man. The people, who based their reactions on their culture, decided that these two were gods. But Barnabas and Paul responded by using the culture to explain who God is. The people understood humanity, harsh gods, and nature’s seasons. So rather than let the communication gap divide them more, they explained how a loving God, much stronger than any god or human, provided for them. Was it instant change in the people or their culture? No. Yet Barnabas and Paul respected the culture they visited, and tried to communicate in terms the people would understand.
It’s possible we don’t understand other cultures. Why do Haitians hang food from trees? In Colorado, backpackers will hang their food from trees, but that’s because the bears might find a tasty treat, and bears don’t leave leftovers. However, bears are not found in Haiti. Haitians hang their food so that the rats do not get to the drying corn.
When there’s a chance for pride in your own culture, be aware. Sometimes the way we do things isn’t the best for the people visited. Perhaps the best way is to find out the why behind the reaction, and then introduce God, right where they are at.