Regardless of worldview or cultural upbringing, we all have ethnocentric tendencies. Ethnocentrism is the way that we evaluate other cultures according to preconceptions that are based in an individual’s home culture. The initial reaction is to see your own culture as right and to filter every other culture in relation to that (usually negatively). No matter how hard we try, we will always have ethnocentric tendencies. It’s how we respond to those tendencies that determines how we can serve and love others.
This doesn’t mean that you have to accept everything that is a part of the culture that hosts you, especially if it goes against scripture. You should try to adapt to the culture that you are visiting (regardless of time in) as completely as you can. You will never become identical to someone from another culture, but you can always come alongside of them with love and support as the Lord has called us all to do.
When we work to combat our ethnocentrism, we are subsequently working to love the people God has put in our lives. When we make the conscious effort to move away from what our flesh says is “right or wrong” we are deciding to accept people for who they are. We are showing value to the cultural practices of other people and we are able to build genuine meaningful relationships with the people that we come in contact with.
The second that you open yourself up and accept everyone around you (accept doesn’t necessarily equate to agree with), you’re able to establish trust and a mutual learning environment. Opening yourself up to learn from and with another person will expose you to a whole new part of the world that God so beautifully crafted. We were never meant to be the same as anyone else, but our ethnocentric preconceptions say the opposite. Our flesh and the things of this world will always drag us down and try to force us to stay in the comfort of our own homes.
God has offered us so much more than a life of complacency and comfort. We have the opportunity to see so much of His design and the variety that he desires the world to have. We get to learn from others and expand our worldview to include customs that may seem strange at first but will soon prove to be incredible.
When we refuse to open our eyes and our minds we are denying ourselves the blessings that come from seeing the entirety of the Lord’s creation. We will never know what it’s like to be from a culture other than the one we were born in and we can never fully become someone else. But, when we intentionally step away from ethnocentrism and move into relationships that model the family Christ designed for us to have with our siblings all over the world, everything changes.
Suddenly the things that you used to see as having only one right option, can be accomplished in a dozen different ways. When you open your eyes and your mind to what the rest of the world has to offer, you can become the kind of person that naturally loves all types of people and you’ll grow as an individual and as a servant to the Lord.