Turning the World Upside Down

"Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." —John 3:3

Jesus' statement about the nature of spiritual transformation, which confounded Nicodemus in the first century, has continued to mystify people of religion ever since. Trying to understand how to enter into that place where God reigns can indeed be as difficult as entering a second time into our mother's womb. Being made of flesh and bone, we sometimes stumble on the things of the Spirit.

This predicament is amplified in the effort to share the Christian faith across cultures. The Spirit blows where it will, but humans are limited to the tools at hand—language, institutions, and culture—in their ability to share the gospel. While Jesus' translation of the Word of God to humanity through his incarnation can be seen as the greatest missionary act in history, his followers haven't been able to replicate this work with the same success.

Yet Christianity, a religion based on God's incarnation, is perhaps best revealed as it crosses human boundaries and takes on the characteristics of different cultural, linguistic, and racial groups in order to make the love of God understandable to all people. Missionary historian Andrew Walls writes in his recent book, The Missionary Movement in Christian History, "[T]he attempt to transmit faith in Christ across linguistic and cultural frontiers revealed that Christ had meanings and significance never guessed before, and revealed another glimpse of the glory of the completed, redeemed humanity."

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1997
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