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Are We a Christian Ghetto?
By Fenny Wibowo - November 1999



The word “Ghetto” came from Venetian word “geto” (pron, je-tto), indicating the site of a metal foundry.  This word used by the German Jews to the area of settlement for the Jews in the 16th century.  The first area assigned to the Jews was called “Ghetto Novo” (New Ghetto) probably because there was a new foundry there.  It was developed to protect them initially.  It also served to preserves their cultural, social, and religious heritage.  They have their own way of dressing, their kind of food, their way of relating, etc.  Basically they create a wall around them.  It would be very difficult from people outside their ghetto to be accepted also.

Let’s take a moment to look at our community, ICF.  Are we considered ourselves as a ghetto?  Or do we act or think as a ghetto?  That we actually make people go away because of our action.  We only spend most of our time with friends who share same hobbies, like the same food, enjoy certain music, etc.  Have we heard people saying that we are 'off' that we keep people away from making friendship with us?



The tendency of being a ghetto
What makes us creating these walls around us?  These are some reasons that could come up:
bulletFor personal protection: what if I am in contact with temptation or I want to protect the church member from bad influences
bulletIt's easier, less work than hanging around with non-believer
bulletTheological weaknesses: I don't know how to respond to their questions
bulletIt's dangerous: it's a dangerous area, people there are violent
bulletI am happy with my circle of friends now, it takes a lot of time and effort to build new relationships, I don't want to get out of my comfort zone
bulletEtc.


I don't know about you, but certainly the reasons could be different for each one of us.  Take a moment to think what the reason might be for your own tendency.



The danger of Christian Ghetto
What would be the danger of Christian being a ghetto? Mainly there are needless cultural barriers that people have to encounter before they understand or hear the message of Christ.  It hinders people to be part of our community.  It certainly would be a huge barrier for people to across this needless cultural barrier to come to know Christ.

For us, we may have unrealistic view of the world.  We can be completely out of touch with the real issue in our contemporary world.   Here what Chuck Colson wrote: "What's at work here, I'm afraid, is a ghetto mentality.  Christian readers only by Christian books, written by Christian authors, written in Christian language, produced by Christian publishing houses, sold by Christian bookstores.  We no longer seem to care that we are out of the mainstream! But that's no way to influence our culture."

In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul wrote, "For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.  To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. "
Paul is willing to become all things to all men, that he may save some people. Yet Paul clearly stated that his limit is in the area of moral issues that he is under the law of Christ.  So, we would never compromise ethical or doctrinal issues or let the culture defines people's needs.

In John 15:19, Jesus said that we are chosen to be out of the world, because we are not of the world.  But also in John 17:18, as the Father sent Jesus into the world, Jesus have sent us into the world.  So certainly we are not become the world, but we want to influence the world.  If we want to make impact to the world, it won't work with disclosing ourselves from interaction with the world.


So?
How can we break ourselves from our ghetto and be into the world?  Meet new friends, making a deeper relationship with our acquaintances, pray for open doors, pray for boldness and clarity to speak, read books - of course on spirituality and the Christian life, but also books that deals with topic that our non-believer neighbors care about, watch news, stay in touch with the contemporary cultures, go to movies, etc.

It is very encouraging to see several of our brothers and sisters in ICF have recognized this need to tear down their own walls and have done something about it.  It does need our extra efforts and creativity, and the wisdom and strength from God.

Let’s not let ourselves get stuck in a Christian ghetto.  Let’s get 'unstuck'!