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Learned Student, Honest.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I knew you were...!

I went to a small grammar (elementary) school; roughly 30 students in each grade from Kindergarten to 8th grade. A majority of the people I graduated with, I’ve known since we started Kindergarten together, 9 years earlier.

With a group this small, it was almost a given that several characteristics about your identity were unique. For example, I was the only Nigerian that most of my classmates probably knew for a while. Some of my classmates probably did not have close encounters with another Nigerian until high school or college.

In grammar school, I had (and still have) a Greek friend named Madeline and she influenced my understanding of the Hellenic culture. As I was introduced to more Hellenic people, over the years, she would often come to mind and facts (and possibly stereotypes) that I knew about the culture through her.

For example, this past week I made a new Greek friend. We exchanged some introductory questions when we both identified and related with each other as being first generation.
Me: Are you Greek Orthodox?
John: Yeah. About 98% of Greeks are Greek Orthodox.
Me: Does your last name end in "o-u-s"? (oulos)
John: No, it’s _____ it’s like the "Smith" of Greek, but many names do end in o-u-s.
Just the same, some of the questions he had for me were based on what he knew of the Nigerian culture, probably from his first encounter with a Nigerian.

The power of a first (or only) impression; it really lasts. It was then that I realized, everyone one I went to school with learned about the Nigerian culture, based on what I represented, intentionally, through conversations and International nights and inadvertently, through my actions, word choice, attire and just everyday living and habits.

At the African Christian Fellowship young adults conference, last summer in Chicago, themed “Salt of the Earth,” a comment a friend made during a small group discussion stuck with me. “People know I’m Nigerian right away by my name. That’s one of the first things they know.

Automatically, as a “foreigner” you typically do not blend in, unless you’re trying really hard to. I often get the “...I thought you were [something other than the norm!]” "I could tell...." or "I knew you were…!" What they’re basically articulating is “I knew you were different!

One of the first things people should know about us is that we are Christians. As a Christian, you are a citizen of a future city.  This is not our permanent residence, we are foreigners. Someone should be able to say “I knew you were Christian” or “I could tell you were Christian” “you’re different!all the time, because as the salt we’re not made to blend in. It should go without saying, but I really have to emphasize all the time, as in everywhere, all day, everyday.

Also, as John and I were able to detect ourselves, foreigners can usually detect themselves. As a Christian, another Christian should be able to detect that you also are not a citizen of this world, all the time. You are a foreigner. Further, some foreigners have the desire, deep inside of them, to relocate or retire "back home" to their native land. Just the same, we are longing for our home, so we cannot get too comfortable here.

We were not made to blend in, during our life journey to our future home. What we do, as professing Christians, gives off a fragrance representing Christ.

2 Corinthians 2:14-16:

14) But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15) Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16) To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
Unbelievers and the undiscipled will remember everything about the culture of Christ, by what we, as believers, teach them intentionally and inadvertently, whether accurate or inaccurate.

Which culture are you representing, all the time?
Jesus: who do you say I am?
Your Answer: [Insert the way you live your life here.] 
 The culture of the Kingdom is the culture of the King! If you’re not representing the culture of the Kingdom, which culture or kingdom are you representing? - Pastor Billy Humphrey

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