I remember a good friend describing following Jesus as learning to love Jesus like his followers, not just knowing things about him (almost as though from a distance). This friend used the example of cricket. You can’t really know cricket until you’ve learnt to love it like die hard fan.
As we go to Cambodia, we often talk about learning to love the people as a way of getting to know their culture. Another way of putting this is learning to love what they love. What we do when we love what others love is see things more from their perspective.1 This will be hard, because we have our own loves; loves we have learnt from growing up in Australia. So we’ll need to un-love some of our Aussie loves in order to love some new Cambodian loves. But in a sense it will be no different from the dad that plays with his son in order to love what his son loves.
Now that will take time and is a complicated process, but part of the way we aim to do this through our judgments. Growing up in Australia we’ll have been shaped by a system that helps us make judgments about the things we come across in our lives. This will have been changed somewhat as we become Christians, but not completely. The problem is that this system of judgments won’t work as well in Cambodia. It’ll probably lead us to wrong conclusions about Cambodia people and culture and may even be a barrier to us being able to love them and learn what they love. In order to move to loving what Cambodian’s love, we hope to suspend judgment in order to prevent negative attribution.
These two phrases stood out for me at St Andrews Hall. Suspending judgment means not witholding judgment, but just being slow on our judgments. Negative attribution refers to viewing new things, situations or people that are different as bad. Often we make judgments too quick and when we make them about things that are different, it is often with this negative spin. Why? Because they don’t fit the system we’re used to. The idea for us in Cambodia will be that we try to slow down so that we don’t hurt somebody or miss the beauty of the different. A very similar tip, along these lines, is to make lists of all the things that another culture does better than our own.
It’s these kind of tips that will hopefully help us on the way to learning to love what Cambodians love.
- I read somewhere similar that truly listening means listening for what others love. In this practice you are then opened up to the other in ways that remain closed if you only listen for content or for your turn to speak. ↩