When we present to the Gospel to people in other cultures (and the “other” may be from a different part of the country, or a different background — as well as a different country). We need to be careful to assume our own cultural prejudices will apply. Keller gives an example involving the ideas of “freedom” (which Americans like), “honor” (which Americas willingly trade for “fame”), “kings” (which Americas only like in movies & magazines), predestination (which Americans think is evil & insane):
In general, Western societies make an idol out of individual freedom and embrace love and acceptance as attributes of God. Grace and forgiveness sound attractive, but sin and retributive judgment are difficult to accept. In other cultures that make an idol of honor, the Christian idea of deep human depravity is self-evident, while the biblical concepts of free grace and forgiveness are seen as weakness or injustice. Retribution is critical, not only to maintain dignity, but also to keep order in society. People in these cultures are naturally more comfortable with the sovereignty, justice, and holiness of God.
A real-life example of this dynamic comes from a discussion with a Korean-American pastor, Dr. Stephen Um, in which we talked about a book that contended that people could not accept the idea of a God who judged and sent people to hell. Stephen responded that the statement was culturally narrow.
He related how his grandfather struggled with Christianity. His grandfather had no objection to the idea of hell. He had seen firsthand how evil human beings could be, and he had no problem with a God who judged people for their actions. His real concern was with the concept of free grace— that forgiveness could be extended to someone regardless of what they had done in the past. His culture did not value this idea, and so the “A” doctrine to him (the acceptable belief) was not God’s love but God’s justice. Free grace was the doctrine he found objectionable.
He then gave an example involving work with prostitutes in Korea:
No one denies there are biblical texts that talk about God predestining and electing people to believe in him, though there is plenty of controversy about what these passages exactly mean. In our Western, democratic, egalitarian culture, the idea of God’s sovereignty and his control of all things is definitely a “B” doctrine [an idea which is not acceptable in a culture]. We don’t like those parts of the Bible that talk about God being completely in charge of history, or those parts where he opens the hearts of those chosen for eternal life (Acts 13: 48; 16: 14).
So when sharing the gospel, we avoid this doctrine at all costs. For most of us in the West, predestination is not just a “B” doctrine; it’s a “C” [completely unacceptable to even consider within a culture] doctrine!
This missionary, however, realized that this was not necessarily true in mid-twentieth-century Korea. So he told the prostitutes about a God who is a King. Kings, he said, have a sovereign right to act as they saw fit. They rule — that’s just what kings do. And this great divine King chooses to select people out of the human race to serve him, simply because it is his sovereign will to do so. Therefore, his people are saved because of his royal will, not because of the quality of their lives or anything they have done. This made sense to the women.
They had no problem with idea of authority figures acting in this way — it seemed natural and right to them. But this also meant that when people were saved, it was not because of pedigree or virtue or effort, but because of the will of God (cf. John 1: 13). Their acceptance of this belief opened up the possibility of understanding and accepting the belief in salvation by grace.
Keller, Timothy J. (2012-09-04). Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Kindle Locations 3379-3391). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.