To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints" (Romans 1:7). "To the churches of Galatia" (Galatians 1:2). "To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:1). Many of the books of the Bible were written to different cultures, and the people spoke different languages. Many of the traditional customs were different. Society today questions the ability of the Bible to relate to our ever-changing culture. Is the Bible still relevant to you and me?
The influence of Satan is everywhere
My husband and I recently returned from Kenya. We traveled to four different areas in the southeastern region and met hundreds of members of local congregations of the United Church of God there. We ate many delicious meals that they prepared and spent hours in conversation, learning about their culture and the challenges they face while living according to God's way of life in their society.
The young adults in Kenya face challenges when they follow God's way. Similarly, the young adults in Western cultures face challenges, too. Even though the challenges may differ, the source of these trials is the same. Satan deceives the whole world (see Revelation 12:9). Every continent, every city, is affected by the devil's influence. We are all living in a society where Satan manipulates and works his evil to make living God's way of life a challenge.
Even though we are physically separated around the globe, God's people everywhere share the common goal of resisting the evil one.
Learning from others
Each culture has its unique challenges, but everyone faces the same enemy. Learning from other cultures can give insight into how we should be living. We can learn from the various struggles and challenges to develop our own stronger, personal relationship with God.
The United States Constitution provides protection for the freedom of religion. This allows those of us who are American citizens to live by God's laws relatively undisturbed by government interference at this time. However, in Kenya we met a young adult who has been expelled from three different secondary schools as a result of keeping God's laws.
Learning about the faith that the young Kenyan had to trust in God, even if that meant being expelled, taught us a lot about dedication to God's way of life. Our dedication to obeying God should be the same as our brethren in cultures who face persecution for their beliefs. We all can learn from others' trials.
In the same way, we can also learn from the writings and instructions from the men of the Bible. Reading God's Word and applying it to our modern-day life is essential to learning the principles God has given to us.
God's way is eternal
The Bible is more than a collection of stories. It is the manual God has inspired for our daily life. We are to love God's way of life and His instructions. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Was Paul saying that Scripture is only profitable to cultures similar to the one in which he and Timothy lived? On the contrary, the entire Bible applies to people of all times and places—including us today, wherever we may be. When we study God's Word and apply it directly to our lives, we can begin to see how God's way works. God did not intend for Scripture to be changed or updated according to the world's standards. He intended that it serve perfectly for all of humanity.
The Bible's encouragement
Around Kenya we noticed billboards selling the latest brands of drinks and clothing. It was no different than America, with the scantily clad women and the promotion of alcohol to make yourself happy. Young adults around the world are faced with the same decision of trying to fit into the surrounding culture or taking a stand for what the Bible says.
We can become overwhelmed or begin to feel alone when realizing the magnitude of the battle we face against Satan. He wants to challenge us and create doubt in our minds about the one true God.
Moses encouraged his successor Joshua by saying: "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). He was referring to the threat of neighboring nations warring against Israel. However, this is also a huge source of encouragement for us living in Satan's world today.
Regardless of what struggles this present age might present, the Bible is full of encouragement and support. People in the Bible faced family trouble—the story of David and his son Absalom makes many of our quarrels seem irrelevant (read 2 Samuel 13 to 18). There were stories of death, financial woes, poverty and various struggles with sin throughout. In the Bible we can find hope and encouragement for whatever trials we might face.
Relying on the experiences of others
I was prepared for the cultural differences I would encounter in Kenya. I was not prepared, however, for the remarkable similarities I found while discussing our journey in living God's way of life. The reality that we all face trials and challenges around the world taught me how much we all need each other. We need to rely on the experiences and teachings of others as we all continue living a godly life on our journey to the Kingdom of God.
God has provided us with a wealth of knowledge in the Scriptures. We can learn from the struggles of the Church in biblical times so we don't have to make the same mistakes today. Reading the Bible daily and fellowshipping with people of similar beliefs can help us to have faith when we face difficult situations.
The Bible is full of information that is relevant to all cultures around the world at all times. Just as we can learn from people in other cultures, we can also learn from all the examples in the Bible.