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And that’s pretty much our world in a nutshell—outdated in months, obsolete in a few years.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 ½ 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 Matthew 5:23-24 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you;
24 Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
American King James Version×; 18:15-17.)
How should you treat the most important relationships in your life? (See Ephesians 5:22-33 Ephesians 5:22-33 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.
24 Therefore as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church:
30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.
American King James Version×; 6:1-4.)
How can you put your foot down on an issue and still show compassion? (See Luke 17:3 Luke 17:3Take heed to yourselves: If your brother trespass against you, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
American King James Version×; Proverbs 10:12 Proverbs 10:12Hatred stirs up strifes: but love covers all sins.
American King James Version×.)
It also deals with character traits worth developing (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 4 Charity suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity braggs not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil;
6 Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
7 Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
American King James Version×; 2 Peter 1:5-8 2 Peter 1:5-8 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×), habits worth avoiding (Proverbs 6:9-19 Proverbs 6:9-19 9 How long will you sleep, O sluggard? when will you arise out of your sleep? 10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 11 So shall your poverty come as one that travels, and your want as an armed man. 12 A naughty person, a wicked man, walks with a fraudulent mouth. 13 He winks with his eyes, he speaks with his feet, he teaches with his fingers; 14 Frowardness is in his heart, he devises mischief continually; he sows discord. 15 Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy. 16 These six things does the LORD hate: yes, seven are an abomination to him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brothers.
American King James Version×), friends worth having (Proverbs 27:17 Proverbs 27:17Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
American King James Version×; Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up.
American King James Version×) 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