Believers sometimes disagree about whether Christians of today must obey certain commandments from Jesus or the New Testament. To avoid or quiet the controversy, some leaders refrain from teaching those commands, but such neglect often keeps disagreement festering.
Most controversial commands in the New Testament involved adapting to cultural differences. That is, a universal, underlying command sometimes appeared in an outward form specific to a certain culture. Examples:
- A universal command is to serve humbly. An external form of expressing humility that was common in Jesus’ culture was foot washing. Jesus never intended all believers, everywhere, to limit serving humbly to a ritual.
- Another universal command is for women to be submissive to their own husbands. External, cultural forms that expressed such submission were to wear head coverings and, at Ephesus, to keep silent in believers’ gatherings.
Failing to respect a culture shows lack of love for people in that culture, which violates Jesus’ most important command. Examples:
- In Jewish culture, circumcision was acceptable, and Paul himself circumcised Timothy in Lystra in order to show love for the Jews there and for their culture. However, only a few miles away in Galatia, Paul prohibited circumcision in harsh terms, because in Galatia’s non-Jewish culture, circumcision would have cancelled faith and grace.
- An external, cultural form of the command to love one another was to greet one another with a holy kiss. Christian men in some cultures kiss other men, as they did in apostolic times. In Western cultures, the corresponding expression is an embrace.