In the last installments of Urban Life, Urban Life #2, Urban Life #3, we looked at some normative reasons for cross-cultural conflict. This post will look at the last few reasons. This is Part 4 of a 6 part series on Cross-Cultural Conflict. I thought I could cover this in 4, but I can’t…so it’s 6 installments!
Helpful Solutions to Normative Reasons
In the book Ethnic Blends Mark DeYmaz and Harry Li have great advice as to how to overcome many of these reasons for conflict. Much of the solutions portion of this paper stems from their thoughts on the subject because they speak both practically and biblically on the matter. The overarching idea they present in Ethnic Blends is: “…when working together with others who have a different ethnic, economic, or educational background, always remember that your way is just a way and not the way to approach or resolve an issue” (DeYmaz and Li, 2010, pg. 126).
This practical advice can and will go a long way to resolutions of conflict among people from different ethnic backgrounds. As I stated previously I have messed up greatly in my own assumptions and my own thoughts on my being the way and frankly it hurts the process entirely. Elmer, DeYmaz and Li all would say that sometimes as Westerners, we feel we have the corner market on all things, even God and we wrongly would assume that our way is not only right but the only biblical way to go about doing things. In fact Elmer says: “I suggest the Bible supports several means of handling conflict in addition to those used in Western culture” (Elmer, 1993, pg. 46), which tells us Westerners to not think our interpretation of Scripture can or should be applied in every cultural setting. This will take a lot of work in a lot of Western hearts because truthfully for some reason or another many of us believe our way of thinking, interpreting and resolving conflicts is the very best there is. In so thinking we become arrogant, rude and hard to deal with to the rest of the world around us. I think first off, if we can humble ourselves to the realization that we do not have the corner market as Westerners on thinking we will start off well.
Before I go into resolving the issues mentioned before, I desire to throw another blanket over the whole issue. This blanket comes from the book Ethnic Blendsand has been an eye-opening and helpful tool to myself personally. Mark DeYmaz in this book looks at several of Paul’s cross-cultural run-ins and gives some great practical and biblical advice as to how Paul handled these situations.
Mark points out three directives we can get from Paul’s exchange in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. I will state the three directives and then unpack them. The directives are: “You Must Surrender Your Rights (Preferences); You Must Extend Yourself to Others; You Must Not Be Dogmatic” (DeYmaz and Li, 2010, pgs. 154-163).
You Must Surrender Your Rights (Preferences)
The way we always want things done, the preferences for worship, interaction, time, style, conflict resolution, understanding God, the way we preach the Gospel all must be surrendered to God. Realizing we don’t have the corner market, realizing we might be wrong on some things and realizing there are different ways to go about things are all key to surrendering our rights and preferences. DeYmaz says: “When Paul says he is free in Christ (1 Cor. 9:19), he is emphasizing that neither his worship nor his ministry are bound by the religious customs or cultural traditions of any single group” (DeYmaz and Li, 2010, pg. 157). His styles, and preferences are free to change and mold as they have to, as long as it doesn’t go against Scripture.
You Must Extend Yourself to Others
When we are “others” focused, we tend to look past certain things like time, style, understanding of God, new ways to preach the gospel and conflict resolution because the person is more important than being right or proving someone wrong. Our hearts should be for people like us, but also for people unlike us. We must be people who seek to love the world and to do so, we must focus more on the person than anything else. Learning the person will teach us how to interact with them where we can be best understood. We will seek to learn their ways in order to love and care for them.
You Must Not Be Dogmatic
Methods need to change in order for us to win others. DeYmaz states: “Finally, in this passage (1 Cor. 9:22) Paul shows us that he is ready to do whatever is necessary to win those who are different from him to Christ and to his church” (DeYmaz and Li, 2010, pgs. 162-163). We can’t hold to just our modes and methods if we plan on reaching others for Christ, we need to be people who love enough to adjust and shift to reach those who desperately need Him.