The look of fear on people’s faces when they hear my (northern) accent and consider my words is really rather funny, here in Cork.
“Oh we’re very different here y’know. Things won’t work the same as up north.”
We love to proclaim our “other”ness to all around. And there’s much truth in that. It took me over two years to feel as if I’ve transitioned from Belfast to Cork (via 5 years in Nottingham). And still many will say I stick out like a sore thumb, as a northern minded person. But at least I’ve deluded myself into thinking I’ve contextualised a certain extent. In reality it’ll be the third generation that’d be the ones fully adapted to local ways, perhaps.
And in a very similar vein, that’s true for those who come to faith too, or change worldview of any sort, I could imagine.
The first generation
have probably already married or had kids and then changed worldview. Or they are so new to their worldview switch that finding a spouse of similar opinion isn’t high on their list – they’d rather just find someone who tolerates their way of life.
The second generation
have been brought up by a relatively new believer, who is still growing in their convictions. If they come to the same faith, they could well be in the place to choose a spouse of that worldview and raise kids in the same way.
The third generation
will be the first brought up completely in that culture or worldview.
It’s why you see many in various religions (and cultures) demanding they marry someone of a similar view to themselves. And to many extents, that’s quite sensible, to keep the most heartfelt goals in life similar. But what many don’t realise is that, like anything in life, you can’t force practice on someone who just doesn’t get it, without creating bitterness.
Beating a “you must marry a Christian” drum will only work if a person sees what having a growing, intimate relationship with Christ looks like. And so if Christ means very little to someone, having a spouse that follows Christ, will also mean very little.
But instead of trying to force them to think more of Christ, and telling them repeatedly that “is Jesus not worth it to sacrifice this non-Christian boyfriend?”, I wonder whether we need to ease off the imperatives and press heavy on the indicatives of the good news. That’s not to abandon the place of the law in the Christian life. But it’s to see the big picture beyond my lifetime, and through more generations that just mine. And it’s to learn that if we’re finding it heartbreaking that person x is going out with a “non-Christian”, that most likely we weren’t chatting on much of a deep level with them before this started anyway. Exceptions there are aplenty, of course.
You can tell a northerner however many times you want that the south is a people orientated culture and not so much time/task orientated one. He will nod vigorously and start telling others that exact truth. But every time you see him going “wrong”, will it help him much to tell him the same thing over and over again?
You can try it with me and see.
(But I’d rather you got alongside me in life, exampled it to me, and helped me see it for myself.)