For weeks I watched as extended family dropped gifts by Hamza's home, where I was staying with his brother, Ahmad. Hamza was engaged to be married. As a family friend with "brother" status, I realized I had a contribution to make too, especially since Hamza had opened his house to me for the summer.
I watched carefully as the gifts arrived. His fiance's relatives brought kitchen items. Hamza's family brought furniture. Every gift was intentional, meaningful. After much thought, I finally settled on a table and four simple porch chairs for his balcony. A few days later I received an unexpected visit from Hamza's mother. She was surprised I would do something so in harmony with "their ways." She wanted to thank me personally.
It was a small act, but I was surprised--and touched--by how it built a bridge to a new level of relationship and dialog with the whole family. They reached out and drew me in. They regarded my point of view so much more readily. They listened as we visited--even on spiritual topics.
Contextualization is not a new, academic concept. It is about being thoughtful in everyday ways, about being considerate of who the other person is and what they value. Long before it became a philosophical or theological discussion, contextualization expressed respect, personal interest, understanding.
I pray that as you go about your day, reaching out to those around you in ways they understand, that God will give you the generosity to extend yourself beyond personal comfort levels and norms so you can build thoughtful bridges over which a clear and gripping gospel message can travel. --BW