A City Called Confusion
There are things in life that seem normal to us that create great confusion for others. This is especially true when exploring other cultures. Travel writer Harry Kettle shares 25 confusing things about US culture that foreign travelers grapple to understand.
Some of these are fairly obvious: We use Fahrenheit rather than Celsius, which “feels like Americans are just doing something for the sake of standing out, and it’s just a little bit irritating.” Another is the order of the day, month, and year in date abbreviations. “Christmas Day, for 95 percent of us, is registers as 25/12/23 (for this year anyway). In America it’ll be 12/25/23. Imagine how (much) confusion it causes for those who live and work internationally. Let’s just press the reset button, guys.”
Some of the confusion we cause is less obvious: Our odd definition of jelly, for instance. “Jelly is the wobbly stuff. Got it? Jelly is not jam, because jam is a separate thing entirely. We can’t really get our head around the difference between the two and we’re not sure we want to.” And probably the weirdest one—Our incredibly full toilet bowls. “The way in which toilet bowls are designed over there seems to ensure that there’s way, way more water in the bowl than there would be in a toilet bowl found literally anywhere else around the world. That poses a lot of problems in our books, mainly because it causes a brief panic over the thought that we may have actually clogged the toilet. Just have the water at a reasonable level, guys, it’s not that hard.”
Christian culture can seem just as confusing to those attending church for the first time. This is compounded by the various beliefs and practices among different congregations. Some differences are fairly inconsequential: there are churches which encourage a lot of standing and kneeling during their worship services and liturgical prayer, while others take a more laid-back approach. It’s estimated that there are over 200 Christian denominations in the US alone, and over 45,000 worldwide. That confusion can be overwhelming to a novice trying to choose the right one!
Some variations, however, can have eternal consequences. There is one key difference between true Christian religion and Satan’s counterfeit religions: some denominations rely heavily on personal works of merit for salvation, while others trust fully in Christ alone as our means of salvation. The three angels’ messages of Revelation call people out of the confusion of human efforts to achieve salvation, and into the beautiful everlasting good news that Jesus is our hope of eternal life.
When it comes to the eternal gospel there can be no confusion; King Jesus is all!
Connecting: What are some practices in your faith community that seem confusing to you? Are you fine with that mystery, or would you really like someone to clarify the issues for you?
Sharing: What does it mean for us to call God’s people out of the confusion of Babylonish religion, as described in Revelation 18:1-5?
- We should invest our energy and resources toward condemning the false religious practices of other denominations
- We should live our lives in a way that others will be attracted to the true message of salvation
- It’s not up to us to call out the counterfeit religious doctrines of others—God does that; we just need to be ready to receive God’s people when they come to us
- We need to get our own house in order before we criticize others
- If we mass-mail books and other reading material, we’ve done our part; it’s up to those who receive that literature to accept it or not
Applying: Is it possible for us to muddy the simple gospel message with non-essential teachings and practices? Discuss this with your study group. Make two lists—a list of essentials and a list of non-essential religious observances.
Valuing: Are you personally clear in your understanding of the eternal gospel? Do you have a calm assurance of your salvation? If not, discuss this with a trusted friend and make a promise to pray for each other to be able to cut through the confusion and gain that assurance.
~ Chuck Burkeen