“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” – Gal 5:1 (NIV)
When Christian missionaries first came here in Africa they were aghast at certain cultural aspects they found practiced, many of which they could trace to satanic worship. For example birth and burial ceremonies were often characterized with singing and drumming, while thanking or appealing to the gods. All these were also accompanied with hard drinking.
In their zeal missionaries advised converts to abandon almost all aspects of their tribal culture, as satanic. It was a controversial position. Does becoming a Christ follower mean abandoning one’s culture.
Actually, it was not the first time the issue of culture had come up. Early in the life of the church an incident arose where the Apostle Paul had to confront Apostle Peter on matters of culture. Converted Jews had taken after their culture of circumcision as part and parcel of being a Christian. Titus, a companion of Paul who was Greek, was first circumcised to be considered one, though it was not a practice common to his culture (Gal 2:3). Once Peter who had started to win disciples among uncircumcised Gentiles saw Paul, he decided to withdraw and eat separately. This upset Paul.
“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?” (vv 14). He brought to his attention that that “a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ..” (vv 15).
Paul was making a point that our cultures should not be a stumbling bloc with following Christ. He gives us the answer, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me..” (vv 20).
Being fixated with one’s culture is certainly not the path to salvation. Maybe there are certain aspects in one’s culture that must be dropped as satanic. Maybe there are those that should be retained as holy. But the point is culture is not what gets one to heaven. As Paul advised, “know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (vv 16).
Prayer for today: Lord Father God of Abraham, maker of heaven and earth, I am thankful for the Gospel of your son Jesus Christ, which has set me free from being chained to any cultural inhibitions, for I am saved not by works but by grace!