When we ask the question of whom are we teaching, we are, as we did with the wind question, we're looking at the issue of the learner information about the learners. So we saw under the one question that teachers in the teaching ministry of the church, we need to be attentive to issues of development and readiness, whether we're speaking about natural development as often is the case in secular educational models, and we should be attentive to that or spiritual development, which should be especially tended to in the church, and we should be attentive of that in our teaching. Another aspect of the learner is raised by the whom question, and that really is as we look at those whom we are teaching. What else do we need to know about the learners in order to be able to teach most effectively? We want to teach in ways that are congruent to the realities of the learner. In other words, teaching that will fit the learner, teaching that makes sense to the learner, teaching that's culturally sensitive. And that's a very big issue that we're raising. When we raise the issue of cultural sensitivity, we're reminded of the fact that culture itself is a huge and difficult concept. What do we mean by culture? Well, there's often various aspects of culture that is ways to understand the whole pattern of living of a person or the whole pattern of living of a community. If I wanted to understand a person's cultural realities or just understand the learner in general, there's all kinds of things they need to be attentive to. What do I need to know about the the ethnicity and nationality of the person? What about issues of socioeconomic status? And there are all kinds of things subcultural groupings, all sorts of things we need to be attentive to.
And the fact that it's so, so intricate, so involved, and so complex reminds me that ultimately, if I really want to know my learners, there's no substitution for personal knowledge. Like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we must also be careful to know our sheep and to call them by name. We need to be in relationships where we can know our people because every person will have a unique story to tell. We can complicate the whole cultural picture by saying it's not just race, it's not just ethnicity, it's not just nationality. It's not just socioeconomic status. But to know a learner, we need to know something about the unique family, culture and environment in which they've been raised. And they're also youth cultures unique to the church that a person's in, unique to the neighborhood in which they live. And it goes on and on. There are differences of learning style. There are differences that are a result of gender and in the upbringing of gender roles and certain gender roles. So all kinds of things we need to know and therefore we need to really learn to know people personally. We also, though, can profit from studying about cultural realities of a group. Our aim is really to be like Paul in many respects, as he spoke of himself in first Corinthians nine, verse 19 and following, when he said that to when he was ministering among the Jews, he acted and became as a Jew when he was with those who were apart from the law that is non-Jews. He spoke their language. He tried to become like them as much as possible to the slaves, a slave to the free. Free. And he summarizes this approach in these terms. And first Corinthians nine, he said, I become all things to all people so that by all means, I might save some.
Now, Paul was willing to become culturally sensitive without ever compromising his own core identity as a Christian. Becoming culturally sensitive never meant being inauthentic, never meant stooping to sin, but as much as possible, becoming all things to all people. Now, Paul, of course, took his lead from Jesus himself, who's the greatest example of one ministering across cultures in these ways. When God became flesh, when God became flesh in the Incarnation, we read in Philippians two that Jesus emptied himself or humbled himself to become one of us. Jesus never ceased to be God, never compromised himself to the point of sin. But He took on our form and he spoke our language. As he dwelt in our midst. He became a cultural being and lived a cultural life in the same way. When we are called to minister in a particular context, we want to know that culture well. We want to study the culture, especially by studying the individual members of that. Culture and as much as possible, we try to speak in the language of that culture and take on some of the forms of that culture so that we can speak effectively and minister effectively. But critical to this whole discussion is again, we do this without compromising ourselves in terms of our core identity as a Christian. We don't stoop to sin in order to be culturally sensitive as Christians engage culture. Of course, there are a variety of approaches to engage in culture. A famous approach to the subject was offered by Richard Niebuhr in his book Christ in Culture, that was recently re reprinted in a new edition, and Niebuhr spoke about the need for different approaches to culture and different approaches that people take in the church. Some have have assumed a Christ of culture approach.
Some have assumed a Christ against culture approach. Some have assumed the approach of Christ and culture in paradox. Well, another way to look at this that I would propose is that when we approach a culture or enter a culture for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of ministry, for the sake of making disciples, that we need to realize that in any culture we engage, there will be things that are praiseworthy and there will be things which are far from praiseworthy and there will be things in between. The reality is culture is humanly constructed. It's constructed by people. It's what people do with what God has given us. People are created as cultural beings. In the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis Chapter one, the man and his wife were commanded to cultivate the earth. And indeed, this is a word that's related to our word culture. It's a it's a word that means make something of that which is given to us. So a culture is humanly constructed. We construct forms of living. We construct patterns of living. If human, if humans create culture, and if culture is humanly constructed, then knowing what we know about biblical anthropology, that should tell us a lot about what to expect when we find culture, when we encounter any culture, including our own culture. And that is, we should expect to see something of Genesis one in every culture. Genesis one, meaning that all people are created in the image and likeness of God. And in any culture that I encounter when I move across the ocean or across the street or even in my own cultural context, there will be reflections of the image of God in that culture, some things that are praiseworthy, but all humans are also fallen.
That is, there is not only a genesis one reality creation reality in humanity, but there is a Genesis three reality. We have fallen into sin. We are not only bearers of the image of God, but we also all bear the fallen image of Adam and Eve. And we should expect in any culture, not only to find the praiseworthy then that which is a reflection of God's design in God's image. But we should also expect in any given culture that we'll find things that are the reflection of fallen Adam, if far from praiseworthy. And maybe we could we could construct a sort of a continuum about our approaches to culture. And on one side of that continuum, we could find things worthy of celebration, things worthy of celebration as reflecting Genesis one made in the image of God, realities on the other end of continuum, things worthy of condemnation and in-between. There may be things that we're not sure are worthy of condemnation, but certainly will be challenged by the Gospel. So maybe in our mind's eye we can have a continuum with celebration of the left side of that continuum and condemnation at the right side of that continuum. And then just to the left of condemnation would put the word challenge and just to the left of that, in between celebration and challenge, we can put the word connection. There are some things that we're not sure whether this is praiseworthy or no, whether it needs to be challenged or not. But we can in any case, we can use this as an opportunity for connecting to gospel ends and gospel purposes. Let's try to give some examples of this. First of all, from the Ministry of Paul, who said that this is what he did in his ministry.
Paul becomes all things to all people that he might by all means save some. Well, an example of this, I think, can be found in a passage like first Corinthians nine, right after the passage where Paul says, I become all things to all people. He continues. First Corinthians 924 through 27. And that's a passage in which Paul says these words. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. I do not run like an hour. And then he speaks about the fact that I. He says I do not run like a man running aimlessly. I do not fight like a man beating the air. I beat my body, make it my slave so that after I preach others, I myself should not be a castaway or not be disqualified from prize. While Paul is laying out a pattern of instruction here, his his ultimate meaning is that we are running after the price of not knowing Christ and inheriting eternal life in Christ, not seeking a perishable crown, but an imperishable crown. But he gives this biblical message in the image of athletic games. The Corinthians were very familiar with athletic games. They knew this not only from the games in Athens, but they knew this from the games nearer them. The Isthmian games that the Corinthians would have been familiar with. That included athletic events like wrestling, the forms of fighting and forms of running, certainly running of the races and running for a prize, a wreath, a perishable wreath. Well, Paul takes this imagery from the athletic games, familiar cultural concept to his readers, and he uses it to communicate spiritual truth. This would be an example from our continuum.
This would be an example of connection making a connection. He's not stamping approval on these games. He's not condemning these games. He simply is using them as an avenue for connection sake. There are things which are just points of connection for us. There are other things in the culture which are praiseworthy for us. Jesus, for example, seemed to celebrate the Jewish festivals that he was born into. He was an observant Jew, and he celebrated the Jewish wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus was there and he was involved as a who had participated in the wedding. Even providing wine for the wedding celebration to continue seems to me a case of celebration of a cultural practice as being a good thing. But there are certainly times when the gospel will condemn a cultural practice. Paul, who in first Corinthians one nine becomes all thing of First Corinthians nine, becomes all things to all people and uses the athletic games for connection sake in the very next chapter is challenging or really condemning a cultural practice at Corinth. And that was the practice that involved the various trades or guilds in which a person might be involved Participating in Feast in honor of Idols. Paul says This is really equivalent of dining with demons. And how can a gospel loving Christian fellowship with demon loving diners? And Paul says, even though that might be what's expected of you in your profession, you have to pull out. You can't do that. That's unacceptable for a believer. So here's Paul condemning a practice of the culture. And in our ministries, again, if we minister in our own culture, cultural context, say an African-American, inner city man ministering to other African inner city people or a Korean-American pastor ministering to other Korean-Americans or a white American New Englander ministering to other predominantly white New Englanders.
If we're ministering in our own cultural context, we need to be just as attentive to this as we would be if we were moving across cultures. We study the culture, and we do that primarily by studying the people that are We are personally engaged in their unique lives, their unique setting, their unique culture as a community. What and we ask in this context, what is in this context already that we can praise, as in keeping with biblical truth and gospel values? What can we use as an opportunity for connection for the sake of the Gospel, to make our meaning clearer to people and what must be challenged or even condemned by the Gospel? And whether we're speaking about our work from the pulpit or our work in the classroom or our work in the small group, we should always be about such business. The home question also reminds us that when we approach the scriptures, we need to approach the Scriptures as not only a divinely inspired collection of writings, but also writings that were written by real people in real cultural context. So as we approach the scriptures, we need to understand the cultural reality of the biblical text themselves. And part of the task of the teacher is not only to understand the culture of the learner or even the culture of himself or herself as the. Teacher, but also to understand the original cultural context in which the biblical texts were written. If I'm reading a passage in the Bible and I don't understand some of the biblical culture involved, I may be guilty of imposing my own culture onto the text and then consequently misreading it, misunderstanding it, and then misapplying it to another cultural context. So the whom question involves looking at something very complex, the whole issue of culture.
But the focus of the home question is really learning about our learners. And we're reminded that not only do I need to be growing an expertise of the subject matter, but I also need to be growing in expertise in terms of the knowledge of those. I've been called a minister to those whom I am teaching.