An Example of Contextualization: A Look at Love

Let me take a side road for a moment in this ongoing discussion of Contextualization on the blog. When I sat in my MA class at Wheaton College with Dr. Moreau, my wife held down the fort with the church in Bangkok. Not only that, she was also taking care of our 16-month-old daughter and brand-new 4-month-old puppy while I spent two weeks taking intensive classes in the Chicago area. Probably not the best idea for us to get a new puppy a week before leaving, but Ellie was desperate to have a dog, and I wanted the extra protection while I was gone.

Not only was my precious wife carrying double, no triple, no triple-and-a-half load for over two weeks, Tina was left home alone on our anniversary. But she never held that against me, supporting me all along as much as any wife could do. She even sent me love notes every hour, scheduled on our Mail Chimp service used for newsletters. I kept getting emails from her throughout class wondering what she was doing up so late. Finally it sunk in when I kept getting Mail Chimp alerts. Mailchimp wasn’t sending me some update about their service or promotion for something new…my wife had a well-crafted and perfectly executed way to show me her love and devotion. I want to share one such letter here that perfectly illustrates contextualization.

Andy,

I hope your enjoying your class today. I was thinking about contextualization and how our lives, our love, themselves became contextualized when we moved to Thailand. No longer could we hold hands or show affection in public after we moved here. It didn’t change our love, just our expression of it. I think the Gospel is the same way. The message, the content, shouldn’t change when we bring it from one country to another but how it is expressed changes. The same base is there but superficially things have changed. Anyways, just a thought…

Love and kisses,

Your wife

Succinct and to the point…We cherish even little trips out of the country for a visa run where we can hold hands again. No holding hands in Bangkok also means no pecks on the cheek, no smooches in public, no arms around the waist…no public displays of any kind. Yet we love each other more now than ever even if some of the forms have changed in how we express and communicate our love.

Shouldn’t the love story of God with his people be able to transcend culture while at the same time inculcating itself within each and every people group?

What word picture would you use to describe contextualization?

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2 thoughts on “An Example of Contextualization: A Look at Love

  1. My favorite word-picture for contextualization is the incarnation. The best picture we have to understand contextualization comes from God himself- the Logos becoming man to show the full extent of God’s love for us. This is how we know that contextualization is important, because God did it for us. He reached across the greatest culture gap that has ever existed and demonstrated tangibly His great love for us. I know this is kind of a trump card answer, but I always think about this when I think of contextualization.

    • Adam,

      Thanks for stopping in and adding to the conversation. I didn’t expect to touch on this here with this post in the series, but here goes briefly. I believe the incarnation helps us see how we need to reach across all barriers and gaps to reach people with the story of God’s incredible love, but cannot see it as a true example, well at least not a model of contextualization. There are so many things that cannot be parallel by what Jesus did starting with the fact he was born into a society not his own. We will always be viewed as outsiders while Jesus was the ultimate insider. The incarnation was the ultimate example of identification. Jesus identified with those he was reaching far more than he contextualized anything. He lived and breathed the same air they did, he came and dwelt among them, John 1:14. However, he was so completely apart of them from the beginning, that it cannot quite be compared to an outsider coming in and adapting a form here and a form there to become a new way to live out being the church. I know this is a favorite analogy in missiology, I just don’t fully buy into it. But the incarnation shows how God chose to become one of us to fully demonstrate his love to us.

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