As we mature in Christ and in the knowledge of His Word, as social distancing affords more time for personal Bible studies, an important question to ask is: How do we transpose to our modern-day culture, principles that are wrapped up in old cultural norms? By principles, I mean, “What does God want to say to us?”
For example, how to interpret the text in Exodus 3:5 – “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
First, we must identify what is the principle and what is the culture. The cultural idea in the text is: Taking the sandals off your feet when entering a place or space of reverence, a holy place or a place where God is meant to be present. One could say that God is meant to be in your dwelling place, in the temple, or in your heart.
The principle in the text is: Maintaining cleanliness as a sign of respect for oneself and for others. This is done as one enters a space or place of reverence, a holy place, where God is meant to be present.
To apply this Ex 3:5 to our culture today, we leave the old culture which is not ours today (meaning, it is not morally binding), and carry over the universal principle of cleanliness and respect. (Note that some cultural practices are morally binding like Baptism because of the commission of our Lord Jesus Christ).
Other examples of cultural things that we don’t do today:
1. We don’t follow the culture of having our hosts’ servants wash our feet when we arrive at their home, as in Luke 7:36-50 (Mary washing Jesus feet with her tears in Simon’s house).
2. We don’t follow the rituals of the sanctuary as in the books of Exodus and Leviticus. They all pointed to Jesus Christ. So, we take the divine lessons taught through these rituals to place our faith in Jesus Christ.
3. We don’t need to anoint objects or persons anymore for healing and consecration, today we pray directly to God in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Today, our shoes and our feet are not usually soiled from dusty roads. We wear socks and mostly closed shoes. We do less walking and more driving. When we get to the front door, we wipe our feet.
To go visit someone at their home we take a shower and put on clean clothes. To go to church we take a shower, put on clean clothes and we enter God’s house with clean feet and bodies.
This follows the principles of the Bible as the apostle John writes to Gaius, “I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2
Why does God want us to maintain cleanliness? The answer is that keeping mind and body clean it is also good for mental and thus spiritual health.
Our biggest task as God’s children, is that when we read the Bible, we know how to separate culture from principle, carry over the principle-what God is saying to us, and apply it to our own culture.