If I speak with the tongue of a national, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.
If I wear the national dress and understand the culture and all forms of etiquette, and if I copy all the mannerisms so that I could pass for a national, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor, and if I spend my energy without reserve, but have not love, I am nothing.
Love endures long hours of language study, and is kind to those who mock his accent, love does not envy those who stayed at home, love does not exalt his home culture, is not proud of national superiority.
Love does not boast about the way we do it back home, does not seek his own ways, is not easily provoked into telling about the beauty of his home country, does not think evil of this culture.
Love bears all criticism about his home culture, believes all good things about this new culture, confidently anticipates being at home in this place, endures all inconveniences.
Love never fails, but where there is cultural anthropology, it will fail, where there is linguistics, it will change. For we know only part of the culture and we minister to only part of the culture. But when Christ is reproduced in this culture, then our inadequacies will be insignificant.
When I was in America I spoke as a American I understood as a American I thought as a American, but when I left America, I put away American things.
Now we adapt to this culture awkwardly, but He will live in it intimately, now I speak with a strange accent, but He will speak to the heart.
And now these three remain; cultural adaptation, language study and love, but the greatest of these is love.
I found this clever play off of I Cor 13 on the YWAM Thailand site. It’s a great guide to being a missionary. Definately makes you think…