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17. Understanding Islam

15.10. Don't confuse culture with religion

A new convert has basically lost all his relationship with his old life, even if ‒ as might happen in a sadly small number of cases ‒ they might have kept in contact with their family and old friends, or stayed in their job or their home. Either way, their new way of life has little in common with their old. As noted above, this might lead to feelings of sadness and a sense of loss. But not everything needs to be left behind. Western missionaries of old tended to confuse culture with religion, and often required new converts to take on many trappings of Western life completely unrelated to religion or faith in Jesus. While we must be careful not to compromise in matters of faith, we must also guard against requiring or encouraging unnecessary changes. We must disciple and encourage new converts to grow and mature, but this must be done while being accepting of cultural differences. Not everything they lived was religious in nature (as indeed it is not in our life either), and so we have to differentiate between a Biblical attitude and a cultural practice.

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