Ethnic, political, and religious differences divide much of the world today, including the United States. Global travel and instant communication force local lifestyles and centuries-old beliefs to compete with other lifestyles and beliefs.
Travelers before the modern era took months to travel from one area to another. Most people did not travel at all or know anyone except from their local villages and most could not read. When Americans began trekking across their continent, they traveled for weeks and sometimes months. First trains and then paved roads cut the time to days. Then planes shortened trips to hours.
Today, electronic communication means that Americans can instantly touch base with others all over the world. What happens in Mumbai, India, is available immediately on a computer or a cell phone in Chicago.
We are bombarded with other cultures and belief systems. Our own local group no longer shields us. The Iron Curtain, barricading the Soviet world from the West, fell with the advent of modern communication. Radio signals could penetrate it. Now the Internet, despite the efforts of some governments to block it, reaches savvy young people in most countries of the world.
American Christians no longer inhabit a culture influenced mostly by Christian beliefs. We share space with Hinduism, Islam, atheism, and a host of other world views. How do we react to this new world where we must again compete, as the early Christians did in the days of the Roman Empire?
How did those Christians operate? They traveled the Roman world from Arabia to the British Isles, but they did not force their views. They debated in the marketplaces, and they lived as examples that drew others to their faith.