Destroying Walls to Build Bridges
WE DID not choose the family or nation into which we were born, nor did we decide what culture would shape our thinking. Over such things we had no control. We are all subject to time and circumstance. But we can control how we view others and how we act toward them.
The Bible describes how we may do that. Consider a few principles that will help us to build bridges of communication to those who may come from a background that differs from our own.
“The God that made the world and all the things in it . . . made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.” (Acts 17:24, 26) All of us are members of the same human family and thus have much in common. Looking for the things we have in common makes communication easier. All of us want good friends and need to feel loved and respected. Everyone seeks to avoid physical and emotional pain. People of all cultures love music and art, tell jokes, believe in being civil to one another, and search for ways to be happy.
‘Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind consider that the others are superior to you.’ (Philippians 2:3) This is not to say that we should consider others superior to us in everything. Rather, we should realize that in some areas of life, others are superior. We should never think that either we or our culture has a monopoly on all that is good.
“Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all.” (Galatians 6:10) Simply taking the initiative to be friendly and helpful toward others, regardless of their cultural background, can do much to bridge a communication gap.
“Know this, my beloved brothers. Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) Good communicators must do more than talk; they must be empathetic listeners.
“Counsel in the heart of a man is as deep waters, but the man of discernment is one that will draw it up.” (Proverbs 20:5) Be alert to discern the feelings and issues that lie beneath a person’s surface behavior. Get to know people better.
“[Keep] an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” (Philippians 2:4) Be empathetic by viewing issues from the other person’s point of view. Be unselfish.
Cultural Diversity Among Jehovah’s Witnesses
That these principles really work is seen in the remarkable unity of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are active in 232 lands of the earth. They are a people who come from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” and who are determined to conform to Jehovah’s loving guidance in all things.—Revelation 7:9; 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.
Individual Witnesses do not disdain the culture of others. Neither do those who become Witnesses reject the culture in which they were reared, unless it disagrees with the principles in the Bible. In such cases they make changes in their lives. They recognize that in every culture there are praiseworthy features and that these are even enhanced in people who adopt true worship.
They strive to view our planet as God must see it—bright and blue and beautiful—spinning through space. It is a planet with a marvelous variety of peoples and cultures. Jehovah’s Witnesses look forward to the time when all on earth will enjoy life as a truly united family.
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Jehovah’s Witnesses have learned how to break down cultural barriers