How to be cultured

Dear Friends,

What is culture?  For some people, it is something they grow in a dish in a lab!  For others, it means the theatre, the ballet, classical music and the opera.  For many, culture is something that other people have: we speak of Bangladeshi culture, West Indian culture, and so on.  The reality is that we all have a culture; in that sense we are all ‘cultured’.  Culture is simply ‘the way we do things’.  Culture is the way we speak, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the way we decorate our houses, the music we like.

Most of us, but by no means all, probably belong to white British middle-class culture.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Most of us cannot help it; we were born that way!  What is wrong is not to see that it is a culture, because that means we will assume our culture is the right one.  As if to say, “Other people have cultures; we just ‘are’!”

There are some great things about this culture: we value education, hard work and family.  But we also put too much stock in career, appearances and possessions.  If we are Christians, we must see that we have a culture, we must see what our culture is like, we  must evaluate it in the light of the gospel, and we must sit lightly to it in order to win for Christ those of other cultures.  The apostle Paul was brought up a Jew among Jews, and yet he could say, “To the Jews, I became like a Jew, to win the Jews” (1 Corinthians 9:20, NIV).  That’s how lightly he sat to his culture, and how tightly he held to Christ.

Chris Hobbs,