There are many things that have baffled me about my wife over the years due to us being raised in different cultures. When one of us brings up a thing we see as unusual about the other's culture, it becomes a fun cultural exercise of learning the rationale behind whatever it was that was deemed unusual. One thing I have never fully understood is what seems to be her obsession with monarchs and ‘royals’. I didn’t understand why we owned numerous movies with the word princess in the title and almost every Disney princess cartoon prior to having kids. For the life of me, I have no idea why she knows the whole lineage of the Queen of England down to 2nd cousins and random information about their personal lives. What was really confusing is how astonished she is that I know nothing about any of that. I remember well the look I received when I walked by her and some other women watching what I learned later was a ‘royal’ wedding and I asked “why is that guy dressed like Captain Crunch?” I soon learned that this obsession with royalty is a global phenomenon and I am in fact the unusual one. Now that I have a daughter who will be 8 years old in a few months, I have seen numerous princess movies and now get ‘shh’d’ by both my wife and daughter during them. Most of the movies have similar storylines where a ‘common’ girl somehow gets mixed up with a royal family and has a hard time gaining their acceptance. The tension created through the clash between ‘common’ and ‘royal’ is always the source of the movie's comedy. Specifically, those who are raised as royalty are presented as adhering to a high set of standards in every facet of their lives. The standards are in place because these people represent their entire country to the world and in many cases they speak on behalf of the country.
There are similar standards that can be seen throughout the world on the family level in what is called honor cultures. The idea is that a person is a representation of their family and their behavior can bring honor or dishonor on an entire extended family. For example, if a family member engages in dishonest business practices then that whole family can be seen in the community as dishonest. In these cultures, parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents have a vested interest in the character of each individual. Every person is expected to operate with a high level of integrity which then becomes the standard. In our individualistic culture, the thought of an extended family asserting standards over a person may seem wrong and maybe even domineering. This is even the theme of many of the princess movies as there tends to be a storyline that suggests that lowering standards is a good thing.
Imagine a culture where there is no accountability for actions. Imagine a culture where there isn’t a push to encourage youth to excel. Imagine a culture where creating a healthy family is no longer the goal when pursuing intimacy, but only perceived as a desirable extra. Imagine a culture that accepts irresponsible behavior that leaves children fatherless and mothers bitter. These are characteristics of what it looks like at the extreme opposite side of the spectrum from an honor culture. A culture that is built upon honor has nothing to do with income brackets or availability of resources, but on family and community. Many immigrants who come to the United States prove this point quite well. I am friends with a number of men from various countries in Africa and am intrigued at their perception of we black Americans. Each one of my friends speaks of their individual clans from their various countries. No matter the country, each clan operates from a culture of honor and respect. To see people who look like them but function at very low standards and expectations is extremely confusing and often heartbreaking for them. I have one friend who is so bothered by this reality that he now regularly hosts trips back to his home country so black Americans can see a culture of people that look like them carry themselves with a standard of honor and integrity.
Reflection of a Time
In the family I was raised in, my parents were older and their parents were older, so I was raised to standards a couple generations removed from my peers. Just two generations ago, black culture in the United States still reflected an honor culture especially in rural areas (which is where each one of my grandparents came from). In my family, we were held to a higher standard than any of my friends and were not allowed to entertain pity. I do admit, I struggled with pride for a time as a result, but I thank my parents that they always expected much of me and my siblings. We were expected to finish anything we started, honor anyone who is older than us, respect authority, look people in the eye, and to be a people of the highest integrity. This is not me bragging, but simply communicating my parents’ standard. I have been on the brink of homelessness, without food, jobless, and even operating against the standards I was raised to adhere to. Every time when I found myself in these situations, my default always directed me in the right direction. Why am I saying all of this? I consider myself privileged, not because I have money or what the world considers wealth, but because of the vantage point in which I view myself and the standards with which I was taught to carry myself.
The Right Man
In the Old Testament of the Bible there was a man named Moses who was a member of a people who had lost their identity and were slaves in a foreign land. Moses was unique among his people because he was raised as a prince in the palace and not as a slave. He knew his lineage and heritage belonged to those who were slaves because his birth mother was able to have a hand in raising him. At the same time, he sat at the table of royalty and adhered to the standards of a prince. Moses was a man of dual citizenship between two realities. He was comfortable at the table of the king and was seen as royalty, but also identified with the people of Israel where his birth family suffered. When a person is raised to hold themselves to higher standards, expectations, and accountability, they are not motivated the same way as one who is at the other end of the spectrum. The kingdom mindset is motivated by duty and authority while the slave mindset is motivated by fear. The slave is groomed to choose the path that yields the least amount of immediate pain and is only focused on the short term. The kingdom mindset is trained to weigh a number of factors when making decisions and, if the culture is rooted in righteousness, will choose the best choice in spite of pain with an eye to the future. In order to move a person from a slave mindset into one of royalty, those with kingdom mindsets must humble themselves into the world of the lowly, take them by the hand, and encourage them to the next level.
Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.(Numbers 12:3) God called Moses to bring the people of Isreal out of slavery in a place where he was wanted for murder. Moses weighed the cost and eventually allowed God to lead him back to free his people. The book of Exodus records the account and the whole ordeal was a complete headache for Moses as the slave mindset proved to be a problem time and again as the people constantly complained and fought Moses. The sad truth behind this is summarized in the adage, ‘It took one night to get the slaves out of Egypt but then took 40 years to get the Egypt out of the slaves.’
True Mercy Uncovered
Mindsets are hard to transform because in many instances it is seen as an attack on the person’s identity. When Moses came to the Israelites they had been crying out and complaining about their enslavement for many years. After being freed from slavery, they tried to revert back to what was familiar anytime they faced uncertainty. They even complained on one occasion that they wish they were back in the land where they were slaves. Still, Moses spoke to God on behalf of the people and continued to hold them to royal standards. Likewise, the ‘privileged’ peacemaker will face much opposition as they try to elevate people to their created potential. Society at large will think they are helping when they lower standards and remove consequences for actions. In reality, these things only cripple the one with the slave mindset as they now have confirmation in their belief that they are helpless. When there is push from society as a whole to lower standards and remove consequences on the basis of race and culture, that means society as a whole believes that the person is in fact less than. The peacemaker is one who shows mercy by walking alongside their neighbor and helping them build hope in God and His vision for them. If the peacemaker is called ‘privileged’, they should own it, as they are a royal child of God. Take that opportunity to speak the word of royalty over the accuser.
On this side of the cross, Christ did not give us the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but we have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”(Romans 8:15 modified) Now God is able to work on us from the inside to transform our mind so that we can embody the perfect will of our Heavenly Father. Jesus, like Moses, humbled Himself to our level and encouraged us to a kingdom mindset. We are then instructed to do the same.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (Phillipians 2:5-8)
Made in the Image of...
A slave mindset will always view the world through the lens of oppression even if they are wealthy by the world’s standards. If oppressed is what a person identifies as, then they will latch on to anything that supports this identity. If royalty is what a person identifies with, then they will affirm themselves with all that stands in agreement. As kingdom-minded people, we are called to have the attitude of Christ with whom we are co-heirs, and empty ourselves through the Grace that is ours in Christ to suffer alongside our neighbors, by taking the form of a slave (facing their problems with them), but not the mindset. As such, we are to exemplify righteous royalty and share the hope of the gospel. If hope is accepted, we introduce them to who they were made to be and draw it out of them. That is discipleship.
The next post will focus on the power needed to be able to do the task of the peacemaker and how we tap into it.