Know the culture

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I was in Montreal Canada this week. What a beautiful city. If you’ve never been there, google the “old city of Montreal” to see some incredible architecture. The streets are much like Europe. The language of Montreal and most of Quebec is French, not English.

Here’s what surprised me. Montreal is just a very short flight from the United States. But, the cultural differences between America and the rest of Canada is startling. The Québécoise (residents of Quebec) are fiercely independent and proud of their heritage and culture. Many of the people we met speak no English. They enjoy a distinct cuisine and history.

While enjoying the people and the city, it dawned on me that it rests on me to understand the culture I’m visiting and not on them. Demanding that other people understand my language and my culture is not only rude but doesn’t promote communication and understanding. In fact, it often does the opposite.

What’s true on “foreign” soil is also true in my own context. As I seek to know my own neighbors, it doesn’t fall on them to understand me, it first falls on me to find out what’s important to them and how I can best understand them. I “modify” my language so as not to offend and hurt. I choose my words carefully to build our relationship. As I do, friendships blossom. Wasn’t that part of what the Apostle Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23? “…I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

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