Making a message multi-cultural and relevant for successive generations over hundreds of years is extremely difficult. Generations have different priorities and concerns. As time produces changes, it is easy for a current generation to transpose its current concerns on the old message.

That always has been true. The gospels' Judaism and the Judaism at the end of the Old Testament are distinctly different. Approximately 400 years (and a lot of history!) passed between the last writing in the last Old Testament and Jesus' birth. When Jesus' message directed Judaism's leaders to a God-centered understanding, he met resentment and ridicule. Jesus' concerns and first century Judaism's concerns were radically different. God's intent and first century Judaism's concerns frequently were unrelated!

In the first century Roman Empire, the exposure of infants was an accepted practice. In this practice, a newborn infant was abandoned to the elements to die. We call that murder. Though a sanctioned cultural practice, a discussion of this horrible custom is not mentioned in the New Testament.

Slavery is mentioned -- as a fact, a reality. Yet, the slavery then was distinctly different to early American slavery. Their slavery was not a racial matter. Some of their most accomplished people were slaves -- and some of those slaves actually owned slaves! Though the New Testament makes it obvious that slavery did not prevent one from becoming a Christian, it never condemns slavery.

Horrific circumstances produced incredible opportunities. Christian values displayed in daily life successfully opposed exposure of infants. The values demonstrated in daily existence successfully opposed slavery.

If you love people (even if they are enemies!), your daily existence rejects exposure. (See Matthew 5:44, 45 and 1 Corinthians 13:13.) Are you a Christian slave? Use your slavery to glorify God! (See 1 Corinthians 7:21, 22.) Is your faith in Christ causing suffering? Use your suffering to illustrate your hope! (See 1 Peter 3:14, 15.)

The American dream is wonderful! American freedom is a priceless gift! But do not interchange commitment to God and Christ with the American dream. Christian faith is not declared because "everything goes right." Christian faith is declared by our behavior when things are not right. Christian faith is not declared by a pain free life. Christian faith is declared by the way Christians react to suffering.

Worship gives Christians strength to live daily life! Daily life reveals the value of faith in God and His resurrected Son! It is through living daily life that we reveal what it means to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The primary issue is not, "Do I worship?" It is, "Who does trust in Christ make me?"

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 21 November 2004

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