In The Monkey and the Fish: Liquid Leadership for a Third-Culture Church, Dave Gibbons gives eloquent voice to many things that have felt just out of my grasp.  Dave defines third culture as “the mindset and the will to love, learn, and serve in any culture, even in the midst of pain and discomfort.”

Normally I would wait until finishing a book before posting a review, but I wanted to post some of my impressions right away because of the way this book is already speaking to me.

Third culture is not a plea for some generic, one-size-fits-all multiculturalism for its own sake.  Indeed, Dave sets out a compelling theological vision for third culture, straight from the heart of God:

…third culture is who God is. Jesus best embodied third culture when, as an “outsider” yet still the son of God, he chose to fully live in the world that would eventually crucify him.

That’s not to say, though, that The Monkey and the Fish seeks to obliterate our unique culture backgrounds in any way.  Just the opposite: as we become third culture, we become more truly the people God created us:

Third culture affirms one’s ethnic identity. One’s ethnicity is not ignored but celebrated! Third culture doesn’t dull the color of one’s culture.  Third culture actually enhances a culture’s uniqueness while at the same time celebrating the synergy of its fusion with other cultures.  Third culture artfully flows in and out of multiple cultures like water.

So much of the Asian American experience is framed in a negative light: we don’t fit in with a “home” culture to which we never belonged or with the place in which we actually live.  Third culture presents a kingdom alternative to this neither/nor mindset. We are not some muddied middle ground; we are both/and people.  Instead of running from our ethnic identity, or hiding behind it, we are freed to embrace it for the sake of loving God and people more fully.

While I’m looking forward to Rob Bell’s upcoming book discussing the relationship between creativity and suffering, Dave shares some beautiful insights about pain and its role in shaping creativity and love:

It is contrary to our nature and culture to embrace pain, but it is the catalyst for helping people to see God…  For third-culture people, home is wherever Jesus is. Third culture is the bearing of pain to love those who are not like you.

I’m looking forward to sitting with this book for awhile.  I get the feeling it’s going to give voice and shape to some of the ways in which God is already leading me.

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