The Council Speaks
Last updated 4/8/2020 at 3:58pm
I am from Ottawa and Chippewa heritage. I am incarcerated, but I've renewed my relationship with Christ and would love for the helpful information on how to walk closer on the Creator's path, as well as Indian Life newspaper.
I am struggling with some of my Native sisters and their beliefs. I need help to bring them to Christ. They believe Jesus is for white people and was forced on us because our parents were removed and placed in Catholic boarding schools and so much more. How do I help save their souls? I want them to join me in heaven when we're called to our eternal home with our Creator. And how do I live in our cultural ways of life and be Christian? There's such a fine line.
Thank you for your heartfelt letter and the desire to reach your sisters and people with the life-changing message of hope in Jesus Christ.
As I read your letter there are three responses I would like to give to your question.
First, I often hear the response of our people that Jesus is the "White man's gospel" and the Bible is the "White man's book."
I rejoice that the One who created us spoke to His Creation. Observe Genesis chapter 1. Note how many times this scripture says, "God spoke"; "God said"; and "God called." From the beginning, God communicated to His creation. The Bible is not the White man's Gospel; it is the good news to all of His creation!! I love John 3:16, "For God so loved the world [His Creation], that He gave [gifted us] His only Begotten Son, that whosoever [everyone and anyone] believeth in Him, shall not perish, but, have everlasting [never-ending] life."
I have a friend who came from a traditional Native upbringing. He was mentored and taught the beliefs of his people when he was five years old. He was faithfully instructed of the ceremonies of his people. As a young man, he followed the ways of his people.
Then a friend introduced him to the Creator's message and words of the Bible. He was amazed at the gift given to him (Ephesians 2:8), through God's son, Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10.) He was amazed that it was not just a gift-but a gift of honor to the receiver (Psalm 91:15.)
As he read more of God's words, he understood that it was a gift given to all His creation (John. 3:16), whosoever. It was not just the White way nor the Black way or even his Native way-it was for anyone that accepted God's gift of honor, by faith in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, and what Jesus has done for His creation.
Yes, there are stories of injustice and ungodly acts done by those who call themselves followers of God, but in reality, if they were truly sons and daughters of God, they would be reflecting the character and image of God.
God is just. God is good. God is love. Either He is true to His Word (promises) or He is a liar. I thank God and His word in the Bible that says, "He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature . . . " (2 Peter 1:4.).
The question before you and me is: What is keeping me from reflecting God's character and image? How do I reflect His image as He purposed for me before I was even born? (Psalm 139). He creates a "new heart," "a new Creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17) in you and me.
The ultimate question we all have to ask ourselves is: Do we personally accept God's greatest gift, which He offers us freely? Or do we reject His gift by our own choice and lifestyle? In our Native culture that is a great act of offense.
Lastly, you asked the question, "How do I live in our cultural ways; a way of life (Native) and be a Christian?"
I believe the answer is in knowing unmistakably your identity and purpose that the Creator God made you for. We naturally look back to our culture and traditions, our Native way. If this is our starting point, we are short sighted.
It goes back to the beginning of God's creation for all nations, all peoples, all of His creation. To know His purpose for His creation we must understand His words and message to us in the Bible. I would encourage you to read the New Testament Book of Ephesians. In the first chapters the writer writes about his identity and God's purpose. Three times he repeats we are created for God's praise and glory.
My question to you in closing: How is your life and lifestyle showing praise and glory to God on a daily basis? I'm praying for you!
Blessings, my friend,
First of all, I am thankful that you have renewed your relationship with Jesus. The attitude that you describe your friends as having is unfortunately quite common among many First Nations people.
There are three issues here. The first is the belief that Christianity is for white people. The best response to this is found in Acts 17 where Paul was talking to a group of people with a wide range of beliefs. In verses 26 and 27 (NIV) he told them: "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us."
The scripture tells us that the Creator made all the nations and decided where and when in history they would exist. This includes First Nations people in Canada. His intent in dispersing people throughout the world was to allow people to seek God without being forced into any particular way of thinking.
In verses 30 and 31 Paul continued, "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead."
Paul said that in the past God overlooked what people believed in their limited understanding of Him, but now that He has revealed Himself to all people in the person of Jesus Christ, and now that Jesus has been raised from the dead, God now commands all people everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in this person who has proved His deity by rising from the dead.
He goes on to say that God has set a day when He will fairly judge the world according to their acceptance or rejection of Jesus.
The phrase "all people everywhere" obviously includes First Nations people in Canada as well as everyone else on earth. There's no separate system of belief for people based on their ethnic heritage.
The issue regarding First Nations people being removed from their homes and placed in Catholic boarding schools is an unfortunate reality of our history. Although not all residential schools were Catholic, the major point is that this did happen and the situations our parents and grandparents found themselves in was generally quite abusive.
However, the fact that people abused and distorted the message of Jesus Christ does not mean that the true message of Jesus' love for all people is to be rejected.
Even today many people distort the gospel message for their own selfish reasons. For instance, there are many false teachers that go into First Nations communities promising healing and blessings of money if the people will simply "trust the Lord" by giving them money. This is also a scam and not the true gospel message, but the fact that it happens does not make the gospel any less true.
There are many First Nations people who have trusted in Jesus to be their Savior who have had no contact with residential schools. They came to trust in Jesus as people who truly loved the Lord shared the Word of God with them.
Focusing on the truth of the Word of God and sharing it with your friends is what will ultimately bring them to salvation. In Romans 10:17 (NIV) the Bible says; "Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ."
Ultimately, the arguments about ethnicity and residential schools are distractions from the message of truth that we as believers have to share with people. Your testimony about your own faith in Jesus Christ, and the difference that it makes in your life will be what causes people to want the faith that you have.
The third issue you bring up is: "How do I live in our cultural ways and be Christian?"
If by "cultural ways" you are referring to elements of traditional religion from your cultural heritage, it is important to ask yourself how important this is to you compared to your knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul was well schooled in Judaism and came from a cultural heritage that included the direct revelation of God to the prophets of the Old Testament. However, his cultural heritage included a rejection of Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. Even though there was a lot of truth in his background, he had originally rejected Jesus, as the majority of Jewish religious leaders had done. For this reason, he came to consider his heritage to be of little value. He had caused Christians to be put to death and after he became a Christian, he was deeply regretful of his actions.
In Philippians 3: 7.8 (NIV), after pointing out his rich cultural upbringing, he stated: "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ."
In Paul's case, the things that many would consider to be things he should be proud of, he referred to as "a loss" and "garbage." In other translations the word "garbage" is translated as "dung." This is a fairly strong rejection of the importance he placed on things that did not lead to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
In 1 Peter 2:18, Peter told people, "You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors."
The word "empty" also means futile. Without the knowledge of Jesus, the way of life handed down from our ancestors was futile as far as bringing us salvation and the knowledge of God.
While there are many reasons to maintain our culture in such areas as community ties, family ties, hunting, fishing, language, and many other positive elements, any spiritual practice that does not increase our knowledge of Christ and deepen our relationship with Him is of little value.
While I'm sure my response may bring up many other questions, I hope that this will be helpful to you.