Wednesday, April 23, 2014

When Tradition Becomes Bad

How many times have you asked "Why are we doing things this way?" and received the answer "because this is how it's always been done"?

How many times have you been told you can't do something a certain way, because it's never been done that way before?

The Church is bad for things like this. Just go to any church where someone decides to shake things up a bit - they higher a band for the music, or change up the normal prayer, or toss in a hymn that isn't "right" for the season.

Every Church has its traditions - many not based in the Bible. 

The requirement to have weekly communion? Sorry, this is a tradition/ritual - not God ordered. The requirement to be Baptized a certain way (by immersion, or sprinkling; as an infant or adult)? Sorry, this is tradition/ritual - not God ordered. The "proper" stance to pray? Tradition. The proper music? Tradition. The proper order of the worship service? Tradition. (trust me... you aren't going to hell because your pastor decides to give the sermon first, followed by the OT reading, then some heavy Christian rock music...). Yelling out "Amen!" during a sermon (or, refusing to yell out "Amen!" during a sermon) - tradition.

Traditions aren't necessarily evil...

On the surface, traditions and rituals are not necessarily bad. Most (if not all) of these traditions began to help Christians grow closer to God. They were created to develop a unity during service, with fellow congregants.

Everyone kneels together, or sings together, or prays together, to show and become a unified body in Christ.

The Eucharist is served regularly to help people remember what Christ did for them, and to help them grow spiritually closer to our risen Savior.

Certain prayer stances were developed again to develop unity, but also to incorporate the mind, soul, and body - all working together to glorify God.

Old hymns are selected and traditional piano or organ music played to praise and give glory to God in familiar ways. Newer music is selected to appeal to a different crowd of people so that they may also give praise and glory to God in ways they are most comfortable with.

When Tradition becomes evil... 

There are two ways in which tradition can get in the way of its intended purpose. Well, perhaps there are more... but the two I see (which actually is only one... just displayed in two different ways...):

1) When tradition comes before God:

When we start uttering the Lord's Prayer, without understanding or believing its meaning;
When we go to the Lord's Supper just to taste the wine;
When we uncomfortably kneel in prayer, worrying more about our knees than the prayer we're giving;
When we mumble the words to the song, or are concerned with how loud and off-key the person next to us is singing;
When we simply go through the actions to any part of tradition, without allowing it to bring us closer to Christ, or without allowing the Holy Spirit to enter us;
When we put our traditions before true personal and communal worship, praise, prayer, and glory of God.

2) When tradition comes before others:

When we argue with others over the proper way and age to Baptize someone, especially to the point of us telling someone they are not saved because they're doing it wrong;
When we argue over how often we should be partaking in Holy Communion, and whether the bread and wine is truly flesh and blood, or a symbolic gesture done to bring us closer to Christ - especially when we tell someone they are not saved because they do not believe as we do;
When we argue over the correct way or time to pray, especially to the point of telling others their prayers won't be answered because they're doing it wrong;
When we put our traditions before being loving, supporting, unified members of the Church of Christ (which is people of all sects and denominations, believing in God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ);
When we allow ourselves to spread anger, hurt or hate to anyone simply because they do not follow our traditions.

Now, before I started these two lists, I said that they actually fall under one way tradition becomes evil. That one way is when tradition comes before God. When we allow ourselves to argue (not simple debates, but rather arguments meant to say "I'm right, and you're going to hell if you don't agree with me"), we are putting our traditions ahead of truly serving God.

Our two commandments (of which all others fall) are - Love God, and Love one another. Anytime tradition overshadows either of these, they have lost their intended purpose, and actually cause us to move away from God.

To summarize this rather lengthy rambling:

Hold to your traditions, so long as they help you serve God. But always make sure God comes first. When that stops, it's time to reconsider those traditions you hold so dear.

God Bless!

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