The culture of any people is like sea to a fish – a lot of it is lived unconsciously, but it’s what they feel comfortable with. We like to think that culture is morally neutral, and that Christianity can settle comfortably into any culture. But this is not necessarily so.

First of all, it is necessary to develop better insights into our own culture. Part of that is to recognize that some of our preconceived notions of what is “Christian” may not be at all. I have even heard a Western missionary argue that “ladies first” is biblical! Others insist that speaking your thoughts in a direct way is the basis of “honesty”, and others that it is a sign of friendliness for a man to call his neighbour’s wife by her first name. These opinions are simply imposing our own Western culture on those around us.

Sometimes new missionaries think that ‘biblical equality’ means that the opinions of even the most inexperienced should always be given weight equal to others in discussion; but this is simply Western style democracy. In Japan you have to earn the right to be heard, proving by your behavior and attitudes over a period of time that you are trustworthy, respectful and considerate, and that your opinions have worth. We must be willing to wait for this.

Elaine Kitamura