I recently saw a video on Facebook of a baby elephant stumbling over a ledge and the mother elephant hurrying to help the baby up. Within a few moments the mother was right there to nurture and love the distraught baby. The video is found here . I was reminded when I saw it that built into the instinct of every “kind” that God creates is an innate desire to protect and care for their young. I don’t speak elephant (obviously) but you can almost hear the mother elephant saying:
“Are you ok?? Come here and stand with mommy. Listen Jr. that ledge is dangerous next time you will need to be more careful.”
Mothers in particular have this special ability to nurture their young and protect them from the wild world around them. They teach them lessons and help them to develop and grow under their care. It seems it is part of what they are made to do.
So how does this word “nurture” describe our desire as an organization to see truth lived and manifested in the areas we work? What does it mean to nurture truth??
Imagine for a moment a sculpture. It starts as a large stone and a person (namely a sculptor) comes along and out of that lump of rock reveals a beautiful sculpture. The sculpture was there inside that stone the whole time it just needed someone to reveal it; to bring it out. In many ways that is how I see the concept of nurturing truth.
Each culture is created by God and has as its building blocks elements of truth.
God is the creator of all things, (Gen. 1) and when he created humankind he created man to be active in creation as his stewards. (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15) As his image bearers we are created to fill the earth, develop, multiply and rule over it. This is called the cultural mandate. Simply put: humans shape the world around us and adapt it to a diversity of uses. Those uses and expressions are called culture.
Each culture at its foundation must have elements of truth or it would not be able to exist. It couldn’t sustain itself. Whether it is the value of family, the concept of marriage or basics of procreation, truths sustain a culture.
Romans 1:20 says: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
We see that Paul is reminding us that God can be seen in the elements that exist around us within our cultures and within nature. It’s called general revelation. However we cannot fully understand God from general revelation alone, limitations remain.
The challenge we face however is that ALL cultures have been distorted by the fall.
There is not one culture that does not bear the mark of sin. Lying, lust, distortion and corruption have twisted and manipulated cultures into marred broken systems. Thus, we see in our world today various diversions of truth that have manifested themselves in countless variations of belief systems, traditions, and policies and practice that do not reflect the nature and justice of God. Sin has distanced us from Truth.
With the realization that ALL cultures are corrupted and that general revelation is not sufficient how do we deal with the problem of sin? Here is where Jesus steps in. We need the special revelation of Christ to bring full redemption. God’s plan of redemption through Christ is a plan of “redeeming.” It’s a plan of restoring what was once right before the fall back into perfect relationship with its creator. As man reconciles his life back into right relationship with God his various elements of culture will follow.
So what does all this mean???
Remember that analogy of the stone and sculpture? Here is where I think it fits in. As followers of Jesus I believe we are called to be a part of God’s plan of redeeming Truth in our own culture as well as others around the globe. Truth is present, though many times it is hidden and often times distorted, but its there. Like a sculptor we can, through the power of the Holy Spirit, identify the ways in which God is working, bring it out, and in the process help reveal his Truth. As we identify the truths that exist in a culture we are creating a bridge, a connecting point, for the gospel to be understood. Jesus came to redeem and reconcile all things broken and marred by sin including the systems we live in called cultures.
Nurturing implies gentle and caring development; growing through encouragement. Like watering an acorn until it becomes an oak tree. May we take the same intentional caring approach as we help to reveal and proclaim God’s Truth. We aren’t speaking as condemning experts but loving disciples seeking to fan the flames of Truth. Then when God’s ways are revealed in a culture let’s take the time to celebrate what the Lord is doing.
In Acts 17 Paul stands before a group of Athenians and says this: “For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.”
In our cultures today (African, Asian, Americas etc) can be found elements of Truth; aspects of justice and righteousness that reflect the nature and character of God. They may be attributed to an “unknown” source or buried beneath fragments of human influence but they are of God. Why? Because all Truth is God’s truth. Let’s take the time and intentionality to nurture truth in our cultures, and let’s do it with humility recognizing that God is at work in each of us defining and shaping our thinking. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can humbly and boldly proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ and be apart of redeeming cultures for the glory of God in the process.