“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”
American culture is so different from many other cultures around the world. One of the cultures amongst which I lived for a few years was what they call a “shame based” culture. Right and wrong there is essentially defined by getting caught and/or saving face. Because of that, it takes a certain finesse to talk with people and truly communicate on a heart level when your home culture is so different. Here is an example:
One day I had a group of tourists from America, and we were staying up in the highlands. There is a volcanic crater lake that is beautiful with a famous access road that descends from the top of the crater down to the lake through a series of 44 hairpin turns. The views are stunning, the weather perfect year round (situated at the equator and substantial elevation keeps the temperature right around 75 degrees every day), the water is clear and the people are friendly. Everyone knows that you have to visit this lake when you are in the region. Most locals hop buses or hire a driver, but I had rented two cars to drive the tourists around on my own. This country has roads that connect cities and not many in between, so once you get on the right road – you always end up where you want to go. So on the way out of the hotel with my volunteers I asked the woman at the desk which road we need to take to get to the lake. Enter: Shame-based-culture. She did not know. But it was shameful upon her to not give me an answer and it would disrespect me to send me elsewhere to ask, so she made up an answer.
Having not yet had experiences like this, I took her word and we loaded up the car. We all know – according to the Lonely Planet – that it was a two hour drive. So we turned on the music and enjoyed the road. Two and a half hours later we were still not there, and we had seen a few tight curves but certainly not 44 in a row. Having not crossed any side roads since leaving town, I was sure that we had not missed a turn, so we kept going. At the three hour mark we decided to stop and ask. We had gone three hours in the wrong direction. We had needed to go South East out of town, and we had gone due North. When we got back to the hotel (we decided to skip the lake that day), my translators told me that they had asked directions in town and knew the way…we could go the next day. They knew that we were on the wrong road the entire time. But it would have been disrespectful and shameful to tell me that I was wrong. So they saved my honor by letting us continue driving the wrong way!
I have been reflecting on this story in light of the post yesterday about “always be prepared to make a defense for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3.15). The reason is that we need to be prepared, not only with an answer, but with the right answer. Truth is not relative. 2 + 2 is always 4. If you think 2 + 2 is 5, you will get the question wrong on the test. If you take the road North out of town, you will not end up at the crater lake which is South East of town. And Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one gets to go to Heaven apart from Him. These things are equally true:
“It is only narrow minded to think a subjective opinion is true.” Hazakim
The reason for your hope must be established in the Word of God, our written account of His ultimate Truth. Do not make up your own answers and send people or yourself down the wrong path. Jesus is the way. He doesn’t promise to show you the way, He is the way. Let’s join Him. Have your answer, the right answer: The Gospel.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
– Matt 7.13-14