Saturday, July 25, 2009

Reflection: One of my most important faith experiences

I have slowly come to understand that the Christian faith can be understood quite differently in different cultures. I have been living in Australia for over 20 years, and I find that most of my (Aussie) Christian friends have grown up with largely Aussie Christians, or at least their non-Aussie friends have tried to relate to them according to Australian cultural values and social assumptions. But I spent my childhood and young adult years in Asia where it was a multi-faith society. I grew up in an era where our traditional faith and culture collided with that of the Western world.

In Australia, Christians are learning to live in a multi-faith and multi-cutlural society. Some think that Christians converted from another faiths and cultures should adopt a Western lifestyle and Western church culture. This way of thinking is of course problematic, because Christians in the New Testament (e.g. the apostle Paul) did not live a Western lifestyle, nor did their churches look like a Western church.

There are other Christians in Australia who think that all other cultures and faiths are just fine. As long as they love God and do what God wants, what they actually believe in is not that important.

Instead of going into a theological debate, I will share my own faith experience here.

I used to worship traditional gods in our culture, which was a mixture of Buddhism, ancestral worship and other pantheistic faiths. (I think we had about six household gods in our apartment.) Within this belief system it is also believed that there is a supreme god somewhere who rules over everything. Traditionally, we are a people with a high moral standard - not that we live up to it at all, but it's embedded in our mindset.

In my search for identity and reality, the most important part of my faith is the realisation that I am a sinner. I know that no matter how I try to live up to our moral ideals, I fail.

It is in this realisation that I learn to know the love of God in sending his own Son to die for me. It is because of this that I want to give my whole life to Jesus and to serve him wholeheartedly. It is in the resurrection of Christ that we find true hope in all the sufferings and trials in this life. It is because of this that we seek to love God with all our heart, and love the people around us.

Some Christians may find the above a bit boring, for they hear this every Sunday. For others, this may be a new thing, for their churches don't talk about sin that much.

But I thought I might share my own experince because it is so important. Despite all my talk (in this blog) on justice, mercy and the grace of God, deep in my heart the most important faith experience is the realisation that I am a sinner and that God wants us to give our whole life to him and love him with all our heart. It's more than a doctrine or theology. It is an experience (from the Spirit of God, I believe) that is based on the Bible. It is an experience that finds its roots in the faithfulness or God.

For those who have grown up in a Christian community and have never lived in a strongly multi-faith environment, I hope my experience above can be helpful as you try to understand the emerging culture in Australia.

No comments: