Embracing Awkwardness: Pursuing Multi-Ethnic Cultural Engagement

IMG_0195.jpgBy Dan Hong

Do you ever recall that moment, when you say bye to somebody, only to find yourself walking the same direction as that person, then you start looking at your phone, or even walking faster to avoid them?  That’s what you call an awkward moment.  That’s exactly what you’ll feel when pursing multiethnic engagement.  Even if you were to view them as a brother or sister in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14), or ‘become’ like Paul did for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), there will be many awkward moments that will arise.

As Ken Currie once said, “Awkwardness is perhaps the biggest threat to evangelism for far too many of us.” How true it is, also, for pursuing multiethnic engagement.  I promise you that awkwardness won’t kill you.  It is a small price to pay for enjoying the power of God’s Spirit using us to pursue multiethnic engagement.

Even though we’re all created in God’s image, we can’t deny the fact that we’re different.  Culturally, people eat different types of food, dress differently, smell differently, mannerisms are different, and the list goes on.  When you have different cultural norms that clash together, there will be tension– a weird tension of awkwardness.  We view awkward moments to be a bad thing, but it’s not.  In those moments is where we learn about there culture.  Those are the moments where we’ll find ourselves drawing closer to them.  Therefore, don’t runaway from it or look at your phone to avoid it, but embrace those awkward moments.

So if you’re asking yourself right now, “So if I live out the gospel, there will be awkward moments?”  The answer is ‘YES’.  You can and will have awkward moments when living out the gospel.  The gospel is counter-cultural to the world.  You think Asian culture is radically different compared to Middle Eastern culture?  Or the black culture to white culture?  It’s not.  The biggest difference of culture is the gospel and the world.  So expect many uncomfortable and awkward moments.

The good news is, the gospel gives us a purpose to embrace awkward moments, so that many may come to the faith (1 Corinthians 9:22).  Even though the gospel is totally contrary to the world, it’s also the only thing that can bring the most different of cultures together.  We all need the gospel.  We all need a Savior.  That Savior is what brings us to the Father.  That’s where we will find our biggest commonality in all the differences that we have.  That commonality is what triumphs all the differences that we have with one another.  That’s where we will find ourselves embracing those awkward moments in pursuing multiethnic engagement.

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