For Your Thought – 37 (Traditions)

I’m a person who likes traditions. In turn I’m a very conservative person and generally don’t like change.(I can hear quite a few brethren laughing and scoffing at these assertions.)Traditions can be either bad or good. Some we can do without; some are valuable.

Following or keeping traditions can be comforting, bring us joy and pleasure, and feelings of satisfaction and security. They can motivate us and remind us of important truths.

On the other hand traditions can be limiting and even wrong. They can cause us to resist beneficial and necessary change.They can cause us to hide truth and keep us from listening to God. Was this not the case with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day? They were so tradition-bound that they blindly and vehemently resisted Jesus. On one occasion Jesus told them: “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men….You have a fine way of setting aside the commandments of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (NIV – Mark 7:6-9)

Legalists and sectarians like to quote these verses relative to those who challenge or question their traditional thinking and practices, but most often it is a misapplication. Jesus is talking about believers who will sacrifice more important truths for the sake of their traditions. See the context. He’s talking about things like sacrificing brethren because they won’t assent to the party creed. He’s talking about preferring division based upon conformity to the party’s position on “disputable matters” rather than being “longsuffering, bearing with one another in love” in a unity of divesity. He’s talking about acting like the priest and Levite who were too righteous to befriend and help someone who was in need because he was not one of them.

Of course there are traditions connected with the Christian faith, but essentially that faith is not about building a church, a denomination, an institution, a party or sect, around traditions coupled with minute sets of rules that cause us to come across as arrogant, condescending, contentious, divisive, puffed up, and self-righteous toward other believers who don’t see eye-to-eye with us, and even toward unbelievers. The Christian faith is a relatiionship with God and with His children based upon faith and love, and John indicates that these relationships are co-dependent. We can’t have one without the other, but too many brethren have been saying they love God while not manifesting love to their brethren. Their focus has been upon promoting and proselyting to their traditions rather than receiving “one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God”.

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