Once people realize what we’re talking about when we mention holiness, one of the first things they might say is that our morals and attempts to please God are thoroughly outdated. Why would we follow a thousands-of-years-old book?
On top of that, some of the Old Testament laws applied to Israel, a certain culture. Some of them don’t apply to us today. For one, if you are not Jewish, you don’t have to follow some of the Mosaic Laws.
And then as a Christian, we’re further exhorted not to follow some of the mosaic Laws. One example is Paul in the book of Galatians telling Christians not to become circumcised. We don’t need those laws to follow Jesus’ teaching.
Pile on top of all of these concerns the popularity of relative truth. Many people today support the position that what’s good for you may not be good for them. Many atheists support the claim that each person can define their own moral laws.
In such a world of turmoil, Christians attempt to live out God’s high standards. But as everyone else right? Have we missed the boat? Are we really following ancient moral codes from a different culture?
Holiness originates in the character of God. God is timeless and he transcends cultures. Living wholly to please God is not only current but ahead of the times. It speaks to every culture and every time.
A lot of times we assume that a certain time period had better morals than another. But history tells us that sin has existed since the Fall of Man. And there are taboos at the very least in every culture. There are moral expectations everywhere you look.
By the way, holiness transcends morality also. Holiness is about more than just the correct legal and moral codes. It is about pleasing the heart of God and delighting in his grace. It’s about growing in godliness. It’s about becoming like him.
In some cultures, what is considered legally or morally wrong can still please God. Some of God’s expectations go against societal norms and preferences. There are people who look down on us for our efforts to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. They see us as less than intelligent.
There is a countercultural community among the body of Christ. We seek the delight of a higher Authority. Christians have been imprisoned throughout history for appealing to God’s laws rather than human authority.
So how do we deal with our culture? First we must realize that every culture must be evaluated. Some cultural norms may follow godly standards and some may not. When I was young, some people in my church talked about the 1950s as the godliness decade, some 40 years in the past.
But the same sins people commit today were committed in the 1950s. They may have been less noticeable or more taboo, but they still displease God. It’s not about any of the cultures or time periods of the world. God’s standards found in the Bible are our target and goal.
Here are some ways Christians can view and interact with their culture:
- Rejection – Total rejection of the culture presents one of two paths. Those who reject culture out right usually spend their time criticizing the culture or making their own culture to replace it.
- Isolation – Christians who isolate themselves from the surrounding culture usually form their own culture, like the Amish or Mennonites. They focus on their own communities and are wary of outsiders entering the group.
- Interaction – Christians who interact with culture tend to either fully adopt the culture and allow it to influence them, or they pick and choose which cultural norms they will support or participate in.
- Influence – Influence is the goal of Christians who seek to change the culture around them. Instead of blindly accepting cultural norms, they seek to enhance them with Christian values and worldview.
There are Christians in all four of these approaches and camps. Perhaps one of the ways you can please the Holy Spirit is to seek his counsel on what path you should take. One thing we can all be sure of is that the rules and principles of holiness we find in God’s Word give us the roadmap to pleasing him in whatever time or culture we find ourselves.
How have you approached your culture in the past? Do you think one of these options is better than the others? Leave a comment and let me know what you think about holiness and culture/time.