Culture, traditions & acceptable lifestyles: Are they Godly or our making?
Many of us, whether we are modern or traditional, are greatly protective of our culture and traditions. Any attempt to mess with, or change what we believe and habitually practice, typically leads to great distress and discord. Alarming- ly, more and more Christians are choosing to adhere to a culture which is contrary to the Word of God.
Influenced by your culture
After 48 years in the ministry, I have come to believe that one of the greatest challenges to God’s people, and the Church as a whole, is founded on our perception of the culture and traditions we were born into.
In his top selling book, The Peace Child, Don Richardson explains how as a mission- ary, he tried to reach a tribe that had never before heard the Gospel. To his horror he discovered that in their culture a betrayal was considered the cleverest, coolest move anyone could make. The larger the betrayal someone achieved, the greater the honour they would receive.
There was a problem though. None of the tribes in the area trusted one another. They were frequently at war – murdering and killing one another. Don proceeded to ask them if there was any hope of having peace between the tribes. To which they answered by telling him about a traditional custom, where one chief would give another his son.
When the handover took place, a number of warriors would stand in a row with their legs apart. The chief ’s son would crawl through this ‘birth canal’ to the other side. Once a chief had given his son to the other tribe, he would not make war with them again, as he did not want to see his son killed by his own warriors.
A Saviour for all
Faced with explaining Salvation to a people whose culture glorifies treachery and who would believe Judas to be the hero of Jesus’ story, Don decided to make use of the ‘peace-child’ tradition. He explained that the big chief in the sky, God, was angry with their sin, but that he had sent His peace- child from Heaven to live with us and to stop the war and His anger. After hearing Don’s explanation, the entire tribe turned to Christ.
This culture – which glorified a wicked lifestyle – had a saving feature, which resulted in the tribe turning to Christ. Culture therefore is not entirely good or bad. The problem is that the Church is under pressure to include traditions, customs and lifestyles prescribed by society into God’s clearly defined path to holiness and purpose.
Of late it appears that sexual immorality – which destroys the family and the founda- tional security of human beings – is no longer unacceptable in our Christian culture. The belief that God is love and that He will not judge sin, has been taking root in the minds of Christians and churches worldwide. To many believers, a God who holds people accountable for the way they live is considered unloving. However, this does not mean He overlooks the wrong choices we make.
In Matthew 15:6 and Mark 7:5, 8 and 13 we read about the Jews making the Word of God of no effect by and through their traditions. Cultural beliefs and traditions in opposition to God, His Word and Kingdom, are of the devil.
Sin is a disgrace, avoid it
Before she passed away, Mrs Billy Graham said, “If God does not punish the world for their wickedness, He would have to apologise to Sodom and Gomorra.” The Church and every individual believer needs to re- affirm Jesus’ teaching: that the rule of the Lord in our culture and traditions – God’s Kingdom – must be reinstated. As Proverbs 14:34 reads, “Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
I grew up in a church that had many traditional ideas. Church members had to submit to religious rules and traditions or they were considered sinners. To be a member of this church and to be considered right with God required repenting of the sins listed in the Bible as well as your own traditional thinking. I was accepted into this church because – as I was told by one of the leaders – I followed their traditions. However, this is not always the case. Cultural thinking often divides people, who are in fact quite close in their thinking, but who reject one another because of small differences in their patterns of thought.
Build your life on God’s Word
As Christians we should have the Word of God and the Kingdom of God as our only foundation in building His culture in the Church and establishing His way of living and thinking.
DR JIMMY CROMPTON is the leader and founder of the Word of Faith Christian Centre in Port Elizabeth. For more info: www.wordoffaith.org.za.