I don't think our parents ever really saw our generation coming. They grew up in a world where people stretched a dollar as far as they could, and when something ripped, they put a patch on it and kept going. Most of their parents or grandparents remember living through the Great Depression, where just having anything, no matter how old, was a big deal.
The pace of change
But us? We're a different breed. We tear through technology and clothes like bags of potato chips. A five-year-old computer may as well be an ancient pottery shard. While you were busy blinking, everything owned by everyone else just got sleeker, faster and more expensive. Most cell phones today could outperform the first computer I ever remember using.
It was my family's old Packard Bell, which I'm just now discovering was ranked by PC World as the worst manufactured PC of all time. But we still liked it at the time. I think if I had to go back and use it now, I'd be pulling my hair out—because today, it would be like entering a horse-drawn carriage in a stock-car race.
And that's pretty much our world in a nutshell—outdated in months, obsolete in a few years. The concept of a decade becomes roughly equivalent to ancient history.
So when someone points out that parts of the Bible are almost 3 1/2 millennia old, it's no surprise that my head has a slight bit of difficulty grappling with those numbers.
The word millennium is Latin in origin and refers (I am convinced) to the length of time that passes during one of those family road trips that involve you being stuck between your brother and sister in the back seat with your feet on that stupid little hump when your sister won't stop poking you and "Mom, she's not staying on her side, and I have to go to the bathroom, and are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet?" or, in simpler terms, "a thousand years."
Almost 3,500 years old. That's insane. How can anything that ancient possibly have any relevance today?
It can't, a lot of people will tell you. They'll say that the Bible is just like my old Packard Bell—useful once upon a time, but now nothing more than an outmoded relic of a bygone era. Society has changed since then, and so has what defines right and wrong.
They'll tell you this as their loveless marriages collapse into petty disputes, as their circle of friends dwindles because of their tendency to bend the truth and stab backs, as their bodies are wracked with the effects of sexually transmitted diseases or substance abuse, as their credit card bills swallow their bank accounts whole—as their lives self-destruct.
The argument almost makes sense on the surface. After all, everything changes, doesn't it? Societal values shift across distance and time. What was acceptable dress in 14th-century Japan would likely be frowned upon in a 21st-century American business meeting. So it only makes sense that right and wrong, like all things societal, would change as a culture does.
But truth is not a suit. It is not an outfit to be mixed and matched, discarded and replaced to keep in step with the latest trends. It's an unchanging constant unaltered by time or culture.
Imagine a man about to walk off a cliff. A panicked crowd of friends behind him screams warnings, begging him not to do it. The man pauses in mid stride and turns around. "Don't worry!" he tells them. "I don't believe in gravity. It's an archaic idea that just doesn't fit into my personal worldview." With that, he takes his final step over the edge.
Do you think gravity will be paying particular attention to the man's worldview?
Your thoughts and feelings on the physical forces in nature are pretty irrelevant. Gravity will continue to hold the matter of the universe together, regardless of your opinion on its necessity. You might disagree with the laws of inertia, but a falling object can still give you a nasty bruise if it hits you. You can't systematically wish away aspects of the universe just because you don't agree with them. They're still there, and, whether or not you believe in them, they're still going to interact with you—like gravity pulling a man down a cliff.
If the physical laws of this existence are unchanging, why would the spiritual laws be any different?
Essential guidelines of eternal value
What the Bible offers is a guidebook to interactions—with people, with things, with life in general. Rather than leave you to figure out the spiritual equivalent of walking off a cliff on your own, the Word of God lays out all the principles you'll ever need to make the important decisions in your life. In its pages, you'll find a thorough examination of what makes for a good idea and what makes for a terrible one.
The Bible deals with questions like:
- What do you do when you're faced with an interpersonal conflict? (See Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-17.)
- How should you treat the most important relationships in your life? (See Ephesians 5:22-33; 6:1-4.)
- How can you put your foot down on an issue and still show compassion? (See Luke 17:3; Proverbs 10:12.)
It also deals with character traits worth developing (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 2 Peter 1:5-8), habits worth avoiding (Proverbs 6:9-19), friends worth having (Proverbs 27:17; Ecclesiastes 4:9-10) and maybe a thousand other things essential to getting the most out of this life—and the next. Study its words for a lifetime, and you won't stop uncovering wisdom until your final breath.
Sure, it's old. But old doesn't automatically mean obsolete, contrary to everything our culture would have us believe. Friction is old, too, but you don't see it being replaced by anything. (Which is great, because I'm not big on perpetual motion as a way of life.)
So, is the Bible still relevant after all these years? Well, here's the thing: It is, and we could tell you all about why until the cows come home. But you're not going to really believe us until you prove it to yourself, which you can do one of two ways. You can follow the Bible's words and reap the benefits, or you can ignore them and let the things you refuse to see break you to pieces.
Either way, you'll find the answer. VT