On Tradition

Maybe you’ve heard the sentence, “Well, we’ve always done it this way.”  Maybe you’ve used this sentence before, I know I have.  This was likely said as a response to some new idea or proposal to change the way something is done.  If you’re a church member, you’ve probably heard this phrase in relation to church.  More than a normal group of people, churches are especially change-averse, and there are many reasons for that.  Many church members have fond memories of years past.  We like to remember the good things.  Sometimes we forget the pitfalls of our traditions because we our not individually affected negatively by them.

So before I go any further, I would like to clarify that I am not against church traditions.  Sometimes traditions just need a little tweaking, and sometimes traditions have lost their luster and keeping them on life-support is more costly to the Kingdom of God than it is beneficial.

I’m glad that two millennia ago there was a man named Jesus who saw through what had become vain tradition.  In Luke chapter 15, some of the religious elite came to Jesus and asked him why his disciples weren’t following the age-old tradition of washing their hands before eating.  Jesus’ response to them must’ve hurt, and it should convict us as well.  Jesus asks them why they are valuing their traditions over the commands of God.  Jesus says that they are refusing to honor their parents by saying that they couldn’t help because they had to donate all of their resources to God.  Jesus says, “You cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition.”  Ouch!

See, our traditions are fine until they have replaced the word of God and our call to grow and serve the Kingdom.  When we care more about holding onto our worship style than proclaiming the good news of Jesus to lost people, we’re in trouble.  When we do what we’ve always done instead of what we should be doing, we’re in trouble.  All over this nation, churches are shrinking where traditionally church has been an aspect of the culture, meanwhile in many other parts of the world where Christianity has been outlawed or minimized, God’s Kingdom is exploding.  Religious people like myself may be tempted to stay in our comfort zone and live, minister, and worship in our routine, but maybe God is calling us out of that.  Maybe God is calling us out of the rut and pitfalls of our traditional hand-washing and into the great feast that has been prepared for us.  We are cheating ourselves by living in the confinements of our lackluster traditions, and we are cheating those who we could be ministering to.

I don’t mean this to be an “I’m right, you’re wrong” essay.  In this I may be the chief of sinners.  But we must ask God for the desire to follow Him into the world.  And if you’re like me, you may not be there yet.  Please join me in praying for ourselves and our church communities.  Please pray that we may be given evangelistic spirits and a desire to sacrifice our egos for the sake of the good news of Jesus.

Traditionally, when people died, they stayed in the tomb, but Jesus didn’t.  Many of our churches are headed towards death without a transformation of the Spirit in our communities.  Let us be a generation filled with the Spirit that breathes life into the dry bones of our communities.

“Father in heaven, holy is your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive our trespasses as we have forgiven those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever! Amen.”

Peace be with you!