The concepts of sin and reconciliation provide an example of cultural barriers that can hinder the growth of an indigenous church to maturity.
The best we can understand at this point, as learners in this culture, it appears that an offense is only that—an offense. It becomes an offense when you are caught—at that moment, the person who caught you becomes offended and therefore you become an offender. Therefore stealing is not sin unless you are caught—but the moment you get caught, it becomes sin. This is different than the Biblical perspective of sin. Our sin is not merely an offense against another human being, but against the character of a Holy and All-Seeing All-knowing God. In fact, sin is sin before it even comes out of our heart in the form of action.
The Biblical path to reconciliation also stands in contrast to the cultural way. Culturally, the offender just makes himself scarce for awhile, giving time for the offended to stop being angry. Later, the offender begins to reappear occasionally – slowly, cautiously, and then with gradually increasing frequency and confidence. In this way, sin is never actually dealt with. Time passes, but neither repentance nor forgiveness take place.
We have seen both of these cultural misunderstandings come into play when professed believers have become involved in drunkenness or immorality. It seems that they do not feel they have done wrong until they are caught, and then, it is us they believe they have offended. So they are sad, but not repentant. They are troubled because they may have lost face in our eyes. They may stop coming around and just avoid us for awhile, then later reappear and begin reestablishing relationship with us.
We are saddened to think that they are just trying to make us happy. It is not us who are offended by their sin; it is a holy God. It was not when we caught wind of it that God was offended; He sees and knows every thought and every action before it is even done. And we don’t want anybody to disappear for awhile; rather, we want to help a fallen brother be restored immediately. We want to see his heart healed by repentance and forgiveness and restoration to a right relationship with his Father, God.
For discipleship to take place in the church, the disciple will have to accept a Biblical perspective of sin and embrace the Biblical way of confessing and repenting from sin, receiving joyful, immediate forgiveness.
This is why it is so important to take the time to understand the culture of the people we work with.