A New Culture
When the Israelites had conquered the land of Canaan under Joshua, he, as an old man, had some final words of wisdom for his people. “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Josh. 24:14-15 The people had the choice of serving the gods that Abraham and his father Terah had worshipped in Ur before God called Abraham; or the gods their fathers had worshipped in Egypt; or the gods of the people in the land where they now lived. Each of these peoples had a culture and gods connected to it. Joshua said that as for his family and himself, they would worship the Lord God Jehovah and follow His new culture.
In Ephesus the people worshipped the goddess Artemis as well as other gods, and used sorcery. Paul taught that those who wanted to follow Christ must leave behind their old gods and cultures. So many believed in Christ as Savior and Lord that the silversmiths became angry. They made their money by making silver statues of Artemis, and people were no longer buying them because they had left the worship of the false goddess Artemis. Acts 19:26-27 A number of those who practiced sorcery brought their scrolls that contained their secret curses and divinations and publicly burned them. Together their worth was estimated at the amount one man could earn in 137 years! When people make a decision for Christ that affects their money, you know that they are deeply serious about turning from one culture with its gods to another. Acts 19:18-20
Every culture has some good elements in it, but it also includes evil elements, because cultures were not created by God. They are man-made, and man is inherently evil. When I first became a missionary in Palau in 1962, I discovered that the Palauan culture, like all the Micronesian cultures, has some very admirable qualities. I admire and appreciate the generosity, the spirit of sharing, the hospitality, and the family support which is part of Micronesian cultures. In those areas, I found that islanders have a lot to teach Americans. But when I studied the history of the islands before the gospel came to them, I found ugly parts as well: the fear and worship of evil spirits, the use of sorcery, inter-island warfare, and abuse of women and children.
My father’s and mother’s families came from an area in the United States called “New England” because the first settlers were from England. I am proud of my heritage from the Pilgrims, many of whom suffered and died in order to find a place where they could worship God freely. They were hard workers and many of them spread the gospel to the Indians who had no other way to know about Christ. But the culture of the Puritans in New England was not all good. They hunted and burned women whom they called witches; they were heartless in their punishment of those they considered sinners; and some of them killed Indians and stole their land. I cannot follow the culture of the United States today in many things. The important things in my life are not money, sex, and popularity as they are with many Americans. I have chosen, like Paul, to disregard and turn away from many cultural elements in order to be part of Christ’s new culture. Phil. 3:7-11
I admire and appreciate Palauans, Yapese, Chuukese, Pohnpeians, Kosraeans and Marshallese. Most of my friends are Micronesians. Those who are faithful disciples of Christ have problems in their cultures just like I do. Why? Because culture is man-made and man is a sinner! The only culture God made is the one designed to be like His Son. The Bride of Christ (all those who truly are committed to Him) follows the values, attitudes, customs and methods exhibited and taught by Jesus Christ with the whole Bible as a handbook. In order to do this, we sons and daughters of God must leave behind some of the values and ways of our culture which are in opposition to the culture of Jesus. II Cor. 5:17
If our culture is tied to false gods or evil spirits we must turn away from them to fully embrace the Lord Jehovah and the culture of His Son. Often this is hard because it cuts us off from people of our own nation. But God is creating a new nation, a new people, from out of all the nations to be one in Him forever. Race, color, language, culture are no longer as important because when we are of one “blood” (in Christ) the lines have become blurred and we joyously forget those lines. Then we strive together as brothers and sisters in the Lord to reach out to the lost of our nations. I have no greater joy than to hear how God has used my Chuukese brother or my Marshallese sister to bring a lost one “home”.
Anything that divides us Christians again into separate camps cannot be of God who has united us. Anything that sends us back into the worship of the old gods is detestable to our Savior who died for us and warned us that anyone who put his hand to the plow and then turned back would not be fit for His kingdom. Luke 9:62 Anything that degrades the work of our gracious God through His sacrificial servants, the missionaries, is an insult to the Almighty who sent them to give their lives to spread His good news. Beware of those who follow and teach their own ideas and traditions instead of God’s Word and His Son.