God stepped into my life when I was an angst-ridden 21 year old student. Suddenly I had joy, peace, purpose, and a new cause to give my life for. Within a few months I started to sense the injustice that when I was going through a spiritual crisis there was a church at the bottom of the road, I had a Bible in the house, and there were Christian students who shared their faith with me; what about a young man like me in Afghanistan, with no believing friends, no Bible in his language, no church in his city? I had to do something about it, and take the gospel to other cultures.

That was 51 years ago. Since then I have grown to appreciate more and more how the gospel is truly cross-cultural, and how its multi-faceted truth meets the needs of all peoples. Different aspects of the gospel appeal to different concerns of cultures:

1. Forgiveness for Westerners tormented by guilt, and oppressed by the pangs of their consciences. Jesus’ sacrificial death took the punishment for our sin.
2. Honour for Middle Easterners overwhelmed by their sense of shame and inadequacy before God and man. Jesus was disgraced and humiliated on the cross to restore our dignity.
3. Peace for Africans haunted by fear of evil spirits and demonic powers. His resurrection proclaimed the final victory over Satan.
4. Abundant life for the Chinese searching for true flourishing and prosperity. His promise of the Holy Spirit meets the needs of every longing heart.
5. Justice for those groaning under the yoke of despotic regimes, and rulers who abuse the authority God has granted them. The Lamb now sits on the throne, and his righteous reign will never end.
6. Freedom from addiction for everyone in bondage to fleshly pleasures and lusts of every kind. He sets the captives free, delivering them from slavery.
7. Hope for everyone everywhere struggling with despair over the climate crisis and the fate of our planet. His resurrection body was the first fruit of the new heaven and new earth that he is going to inaugurate when he comes again.

More than this, the cross-cultural gospel creates a cross-cultural community. The old Jewish temple excluded Gentiles, but when Jesus took a whip and threw out the money-changers he was announcing its demise. God’s house is to be ‘a house of prayer for all nations’, which is the new temple Jesus established through his death and resurrection. At Antioch Paul fought for equal access to fellowship meals for all, insisting that all had the right to sit at the table, and that all had the right to speak. No one had to conform to another’s culture in order to qualify.

This wonderful cross-cultural gospel compelled and constrained Paul to go to those who had never heard. His great ambition was to go beyond Rome to Spain, at the very edge of the known world. Today the same gospel impulse drives us to leave our comfort zones, to go to those unlike us, to those who have not heard. Missiologists estimate there are 3 billion people in the world today without access to the gospel, and the Spirit is still sending the saints to the unreached and to the ‘ends of the earth’.