If you were to start a barbecue business, what main meat should you serve? If you’re asking someone born and raised in Texas, they we will say beef. Barbecue is briquette in Texas. In Arkansas and throughout other parts of the south, the first answer is pulled pork. So let’s consider the sauce. Should the sauce be sweet, spicy, or savory? Tomato based? Or heaven forbid, mustard based? Which is right? It depends on tastes and traditions shaped by context.
Missionaries have long known that if you want to share Jesus in other countries, cultures, or settings with other traditions and tastes, you have to contextualize the gospel. That’s what Jesus does. Hebrews 2 reminds us that God didn’t wait until we could meet him where he is. God came to us, became like us. Jesus laid aside the comforts of heaven in order to fully connect with us humans, in order to express full compassion, to meet us where we are, even in the worst places.
This is exactly why Paul gives his famous missionary statement in 1 Corinthians 9:19: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” When he’s with Jews he works to connect to Jews. When he’s with Gentiles, he works to connect with Gentiles. He sacrifices preferences and lays aside rights if his service can lead to salvation of others.
Love of God and neighbor compels us to always stay true to seeking God’s kingdom and God’s ways. Love of God and neighbor also compels us to at least be willing to discuss when we should sacrifice some of our customs and comforts when it helps us connect our neighbors with God and remove barriers that get in the way of them seeing God.