History has shown civilization after civilization fall. Empires that seemed impenetrable, kingdoms unified and with the strongest of military defense and entire nationalities have been divided, defeated and conquered. In Scripture we are fortunate enough to see God’s hand behind the rise and fall of some such nations, and it is usually judgment for sin. God destroyed all of the human race except for Noah and his family because “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8.21). Then Noah’s descendants filled the Earth and this happened:
“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
– Gen 11.1-9
The people were so confident in their self-sufficiency that God divided them by confusing their language. Have you ever considered the fact that our variety of languages is a curse, a judgment from God?
Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone falling from Heaven because they were “wicked exceedingly and sinners against God” (Gen 13.13). Even Israel, the chosen people of God, were judged and sent into captivity because they disobeyed God’s commandments, they spurned Him and did “what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21.25).
People, in general, teach their children manners that are culturally acceptable. In Asia, you take your shoes off to enter a home or any building of honor. You never use your left hand. You may not pick your teeth, but you may pick your nose in public. A respectful handshake is limp, and when in competition (such as a race, or educational ranking), the slowest may only be beaten by a pre-established margin. No one will receive a score of perfect.
There is an anthropological term called ethnocentrism that defines our cultural pride and shortsightedness. It simply means that we all consider our culture and values to be the highest. The best. The standard. Other cultures are stupid, uneducated, or rude. When I first moved into my home of three years abroad, I was checking out the house. I did not yet have a single piece of furniture, and I had the gate and door unlocked while I was sweeping the floors and planning how I would like to furnish the house. I walked into the front room from the back to find a beautiful woman, with no teeth and a huge smile standing there with her grandson. They had let themselves in and wanted to see the house. After a few minutes of chit chat, she sent her grandson to call in more neighbors and before I knew it, there were five more people standing in my unfurnished home. I did not even have glasses to offer them tea or water (which is a cultural norm there). They sat down on the tile floor, cross legged, and began to chat in their tribal language. I had studied the trade language at this point for a year, but did not know a single word of their tribal language. Five hours they sat there! Culturally, they do not like to be alone. And they feel badly for people if they have to be alone; thus they felt as though they were caring for me by being all up in my space. I was annoyed, because I like to be alone. Especially when I cannot understand a word and they are smoking in my new home.
Some of these things are morally neutral. It is not inherently sinful to wear shoes into someone’s home. However, I still take them off out of habit. It is also not ethically immoral to pick my teeth in public. Or my nose; but I realize I am writing to western readers who might argue that statement!
However a culture can adapt a sinful habit and make it socially normal, and then as a culture and people we rebel against God. We, as believers, must affirm God’s authority over our lives and set out to live according to His standards and not culture’s. The Bible, in it’s fullness, has taught the Church what God desires in obedience for nearly 2,000 years. And God gave His perfect law roughly 4,000 years ago. These truths and statutes have remained constant and unchanged for all previous generations. The sensuality, the sinfulness, the temptations to which we fall are not new to our generation and God’s standards are not outdated or written to a specific culture and therefore open to our interpretation.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
– 1 Cor 10.13
Sex is not casual. God created sex as a beautiful, unifying act between husband and wife and we are to guard the marriage bed faithfully.
“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”
– Heb 13.4
Anything that destroys the body is sinful: gluttony, smoking, not sleeping, drinking our livers to death, lack of exercise…
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
– 1 Cor 6.19-20
God hates divorce. “‘For I hate divorce’ says the Lord” (Mal 2.16).
We only have to open the Bible to run across verses that explain to us what God desires of us as individuals and us as a society.
There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.
– Prov 6.16-19
Pride. Lying. Murder. Abortion. Scheming. Causing division or disunity among brothers. There are many lists throughout Scripture. Take a look. And ask God to reveal any sins in your life, according to His desires.
Just because culture says it is OK to do any of these things, it does not change God’s standards. And if we as a society continue down the path of moral determinism and consequent spiritual lawlessness, we might be the next Roman, Byzantine or British Empire to fall. Is it unpopular to stand up for purity? For the rights of the unborn? God was willing to spare the whole of Sodom and Gomorrah for ten righteous men (Gen 18.32), perhaps He will spare us for a while longer if a few of us submit to Him. And the Bible says that when an unbelieving spouse is willing to live with a believing mate, he is sanctified by her:
“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”
– 1 Cor 7.14
He is not saved because of her faith, but he receives blessings because of her faithfulness. Let us be faithful, in the midst of our culture, and perhaps God will bless us and those who do not know Him might come to find eternal life.