One of the blessings of living in the United States is that large parts of our culture and history are interwoven with the Bible and Christian morals and values. Sometimes though, we can begin confusing pure cultural beliefs and ideas with biblical principles. When teaching the Bible to kids, teens or even adults from another culture, it becomes important to know the difference between biblical principles and culture.
So what types of things often cause teachers to confuse culture and Bible? There are probably quite a few, but here are some I have noticed over the years:
- Music – Often we teach songs written in western musical styles, change the language and teach them as the worship songs. While that’s not particularly wrong, why not encourage your students to take scriptures and use their own musical styles to create worship songs?
- Money – This one gets really confusing. There are definitely scriptures about working for your food, giving back to God and not focusing on money. The typical cultural attitude even among Christians in the U.S. tends to be “more is better”. We expect our children to get the best educations possible and use them to get high paying jobs. Other cultures may value education for the sake of education. They may encourage finding jobs that will pay for basic necessities and not much more. Instead of wanting the best things for their families, other cultures may place more value on having lots of family time together. Both cultural attitudes can be taken to extremes that begin to look ungodly. In moderation though, there may not be a reason to force those who value family relationships over high paying careers to switch in the name of Christianity.
- Modesty- Other cultures may be considered more or less modest when compared to various modesty standards in the United States. It is important to realize that a man or woman can be covered from head to toe and still be immodest. True modesty is a heart value and a way of dressing and behaving around members of the opposite sex. In general, Christians tend to try to be slightly more modest than what their culture considers borderline modesty. As a Bible class teacher, your focus should be on the heart even more than the specific clothing.
- More – Different cultures will have different things which are considered acceptable or inappropriate. When teaching in another culture be aware of the local beliefs and attitudes. Compare them to scripture. If they don’t contradict God’s Word, then it is probably fine to not address them in light of the Bible. If, however, the local customs are in direct conflict with one or more of God’s commands, it is important these are addressed openly, but with love and respect for the people who have been taught these beliefs by people very important to them for their entire lives.
Culture can be handled with love and respect in Bible classes. Just make sure before you attempt to change another person’s culture, you are doing it for spiritual reasons and not to force others to conform to a culture that is nether biblical or anti-biblical – just one more comfortable to you.