Noah in Cross-Cultural Context (Pt.1): Communicating Corruption

I recently completed a 2-part message (or series) on the story of Noah and the Flood from Genesis 6-10 at TriEak Parmeshwar Mandali (TPM), the Nepali-speaking church that I pastor in the Chicago area.  Over the next couple days or so, let me post here some of the thoughts I’ve had on the text and some reflections on my process of teaching this story in a cross-cultural context to Hindu-background Bhutanese and Nepalis with little to no prior experience with the Bible.

Noah’s story comes towards the end of an extended series of messages that I’ve been preaching at TPM that have taken us through the first 11 chapters of the Genesis.  Nearly all of my hearers have had no prior exposure to the content of Genesis, so we’ve been charting new territory.  I’m not going to take the time here to go back through the previous stories that we’ve encountered (for tips on Chronological Bible Storying click here).  I’ll just mention that I have been careful to explain how this particular story relates to the broader Biblical context and story of redemption.  We’ve made use of the “bible-storying cloth” as a helpful visual aid for this.

Communicating the Concept of Corruption Cross-Culturally
After setting up the context, I described the world of Noah as that of increasing population and increasing wickedness (दुष्टता).  The Biblical text (Gen. 6:11) describes a world of corruption, filled with violence (पृथ्वी भष्ट बएको उपद्रवले भरिएको थियो). I felt that it was important to give special emphasis to a “world filled with violence” to my Bhutanese-Nepali refugee audience that didn’t need to be convinced of the evil of violence.  Prior to preaching, I was concerned that some might be troubled with the way God judged the earth in the days of Noah.  However, once they took time to consider a “world filled with violence”, they needed little convincing that God should indeed judge such a world.  This was great because it isn’t uncommon to encounter resistance when speaking to people from Hindu backgrounds about sin and God’s desire to punish it.  For my Bhutanese-Nepali audience however, their intimate experience with the evil of violence actually provided them with a unique handle on the Noah story and what it says about the nature of God.

In stressing this, I was able to basically introduce this as a story of God’s judgment against sin in the midst of which was a beautiful act of salvation.  My point today being that a typical stumbling block to the Noah story was avoided by honing in on a particular form of evil that both appeared in the Biblical text and resonated with my audience.  For me, this proved another encouraging affirmation that the better I understand my audience, the more effectively I’ll be able to communicate to them the Word of God.

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