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Opening the World Up to Your Family

Marlin Detweiler Written by Marlin Detweiler
Opening the World Up to Your Family

When I was younger and expected to learn geography, I found the task rather laborious. It wasn’t that the work was hard; it’s just that it had little context. I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and my family’s travel was fairly limited. I enjoyed the annual trips west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike through Ohio and Indiana, finally landing in a little town outside Iowa City to visit my mother’s parents. Staying on the farm, using an outhouse in the middle of the night, and sneaking a taste from the cows’ salt lick are fond memories that
will remain with me. To be sure, there were other trips, too, yet my childhood provided a fairly limited exposure to the world God has created.

For any number of reasons, you and your children may experience similar limitations. Resources, work, and other commitments, or even geographic location, can hamper one’s ability to experience other places.

This is not good. The world in which we live and all which is in it is under the Lordship, that is, ownership, of Jesus Christ (Psalm 24:1). He inherited it. He owns it. And, as God’s children, He expects us to take dominion of it as vice regents to the glory and honor of His name. This certainly implies some level of understanding of it and appreciation for it. It also assumes we will be able to relate to its peoples. The passage in Matthew 28, commonly referred to as the Great Commission, instructs us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The travel limitations I experienced were relatively short-lived. Competitive golf gave me an opportunity to travel some throughout the U.S. in my high school and college years. I quickly learned that people talked differently in the South, that what people called barbeque was very different from one region to another, and that Episcopalians used real wine for communion. Yet, it was only last November when I first set foot on mainland Europe. That same trip was the first time my wife had crossed “the pond” for any reason; we are hardly world travelers.

Considering the fact that our business works with parents in approximately fifty countries each year, it behooves us to understand the unique needs of a given culture. Our past lack of travel has been a bit of a hindrance. There are some principles that make it easier to relate to others from very different places, and we can learn these in lieu of the very expensive prospect of vast experience. I believe it is important, even imperative, that our children learn them. Here are some of these principles:

1. The Bible is relevant to all people, in all places, at all times. Wherever we find ourselves and with whomever we are in communication, we can always know that God’s Word is faithful and true. It is a common ground that we share with other believers everywhere. The Lordship of Jesus Christ and the two greatest commandments transcend all cultural bounds and allow deep and lasting fellowship with believers from other areas to develop quickly.

2. Imposing our cultural context on another culture can be problematic. Christian Focus is a publisher from northern Scotland with whom we have done enough business to enjoy frequent visits from their sales representative. On one visit I asked him about Christian education in the United Kingdom. I was having a hard time understanding their view of it and hoped he could shed some light on the situation. He did. He pointed out the significant difference in their view of separation of church and state—they have no separation. Ours (in the U.S.) has reached ridiculous levels (but that’s to be discussed another day).

Being that Scotland is officially a Christian nation—surely you have heard of the Church of England—discussions of religious matters in history or literature in their state schools are not only not taboo, but they are expected and encouraged! However, the U.K. is not a bastion of Christian culture and Godliness. It’s easy to see that this creates a challenge for the typical American Christian to know how to relate to them on these matters.

3. Loving our neighbors means understanding them. Wisdom asks in order to understand. It doesn’t assume it understands without good reason. In the mid ’70s I traveled to Niagara Falls for a golf tournament. One evening I ventured into Canada to sightsee a bit. You are probably too young to remember that this was the time when gasoline climbed from around 35¢/gallon to over a dollar per gallon. I was filling up my car on the south side of Toronto and lamented to an older gentleman how expensive their gas was compared to ours in the U.S. He just smiled and nodded, but he probably thought, “What a dumb American!” That’s because I didn’t realize that in Canada as a measurement they use the Imperial gallon, which is roughly 120% larger than our gallon. Adjusting for the difference, the price of gasoline was equivalent. I still wish I had been wise enough to ask for an explanation rather than shoot off my mouth first.

4. Loving our neighbors means making them comfortable in our presence, frequently adopting their practices. You’ve heard it said, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” We all know this is not a biblical quote, but did you know it’s a paraphrase from a famous church father? In St Augustine: Letters, Volume I, we find these statements: “When I go to Rome, I fast on Saturday, but here [Milan] I do not. Do you also follow the custom of whatever church you attend, if you do not want to give or receive scandal.”(1) The apostle Paul clearly teaches this practice too. In 1 Corinthians 9:22b–23 we find these words: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.”

Experiencing new cultures and seeing new places is something that many folks really enjoy. I hope to do more of it. Our recent trip (2) included visits to Rome, Florence, and numerous villages throughout Tuscany. It was fascinating to stand in the Roman Coliseum and look out on the Arch of Constantine and to travel the Appian Way out of Rome to the Catacombs, where early Roman Christians would meet secretly among the dead to avoid being caught by the authorities. Equally fascinating were the hilltop villages throughout Tuscany that all had an ancient yet functioning church on the town’s piazza.

I hope you and your children get a chance to travel to Italy and beyond— long before you’re my age. But whether you can or not, remember the above principles and give your children some experiences that take them out of their surroundings and comfort zone, in order to reinforce those principles.

Here are some simple starting points:

• If you live in the country, take them to the city. And don’t just take them to the museums, but look for ways to experience how city folks live. Ride the subway at rush hour. Find a close-up way to watch a financial district at work. Eat lunch at a busy deli.

• If you live in the city, visit the country and see if you can find a country store where the men put their feet up and talk about nothin’ for hours, or find a farm to visit—maybe they’ll even have a salt lick that your kids can taste.

Marlin Detweiler - Founder and President, Veritas Press

(Originally published by - May, 2013 issue)

(2) While we enjoyed this trip immensely, you will have opportunity to enjoy it too. One of our key objectives of the trip was to capture images to be used in our new Self-Paced Omnibus I Primary online course at Veritas Press.