A Need for Self-Awareness in Global Cooperation
Oscar Wilde says simply and poignantly, "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken". It is one thing to accept and agree with being myself cognitively. It is another thing to believe and actually live that out. Why is it that, let say, kindergartners can be themselves without shame or fear, but seniors in high school have difficult time being themselves? Why is it that who we are is often shaped by others' as well as our own expectations rather than a true destiny and its reflection of who we are?
Why is it that someone from different culture who decides to follow Jesus has to become like someone else? It is clear in my mind that there is something adverse at work here, blocking and undoing the journey of discovering and being ourselves.
The concept of our existence
Now when I say self-awareness, it starts with the truth of imago dei (image of God in Latin). Our journey of self-awareness is ultimately about discovering our true identity, True Self as God's image bearers. The most important quest in life is to discover, accept, and celebrate our True Self. This is a journey of discovering whose we are and who we are. One of Jesus' clearest self-aware statements is found in John2 13:3, "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God". Where do I come from, who am I, and where am I going are all questions that great religious traditions try to find answers to. Why would we not include answers to these questions in our message to the world?
I believe the concept and practice of imago dei must serve as a foundation to missio dei.3 That is, our understanding that all human beings are created in God's image has to drive and be one of the top motivating force in communicating and carrying out the mission of God. Do the people around the world know that they are created in God's image and that He blessed them, and His evaluation of the human beings was very good? Wouldn't that be good news for all? How imago dei gets realized and fulfilled in all peoples is a foundational missional challenge. Would our (as people who take missio dei seriously) attitude and practice change if we really believe in imago dei for all peoples? I have a suspicion that we are still under captive of the modern construct that some are better than some others. If the suspicion is correct, where does that come from? It certainly doesn't reflect the biblical concept of imago dei.
We live in a world where the oldest living generations still remember what it felt like to be colonized. What followed after the collapse of political imperialism around the world in the mid to late 20th century were economic and even emotional and spiritual imperialism. Recognition of the emerging "Third World missions" in the 1970s and the subsequent development in global missions, partnership, quickly became a buzzword. However, even then partnerships were generally not done in a vacuum and in a perfect equilibrium, but in the context of detrimental spiritual imperialism. Global missions efforts could not swim out of habitual dependency modes of operations even with the best efforts from some keen leaders and organizations.