Ever encounter someone who placed more emphasis and importance on rules and traditions made by man rather than the word of God? Jesus did! We read about this in Mark 7 where the religious leaders criticized Jesus and His followers for not following the “traditions of the elders” in respect to ceremonially washing their hands before eating. Jesus calls them out on their hypocrisy revealing that these so called religious leaders follow traditions of man and that their hearts have grown cold and far away from the love of God.
It may seem easier for us to follow traditions of man as well. Especially those traditions we like! If we like organ music in our worship setting, then we will think that true worship must have organ music and all those who don’t worship this way are to be frowned upon. If we like pews in a church, we may feel the worship center must have pews. What about the vestments a pastor wears? How about the clothes the people wear to church? Suits? Jeans? Whether it be the style of clothing or the style of music, or standing or sitting for Scripture readings, fasting before taking Holy Communion, getting ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday, candlelight for Christmas Eve, . . . or having specific events (insert your favorite, must-have traditional event here: (i.e., Vacation Bible School, Sunday School), we can loose sight of the true nature of God’s love for all people if we focus so much on the program or event or style of worship and living life.
Jesus helps us see the real focus of our Christian walk is a relationship with God, not the Do’s and Don’ts of following the rules and traditions of men. For me, there are numerous traditions that I do like (like those listed above) as well as some I’m not so crazy about. But I am thankful that the Spirit of God keeps me from letting those get too important in my life. If a tradition helps strengthen my faith walk, great. But if it becomes a focus of my faith walk, or if it hinders my acceptance of those who don’t follow it, then I’ve got a big problem and once again, find myself in need of repentance.
It is ironic that some people, and church bodies, have sought to move as far away as possible from the traditions of men that they end up developing their own new set of traditions (i.e., don’t have organ music, don’t wear vestments, won’t see stain glass windows but instead, must have media, images, guitars, cool lighting effects, etc).
In Texas, I’ve found it interesting that some people feel the freedom to wear a cowboy hat in a worship service while other people are offended that one wears a hat. Goodness. We humans can get so focused on the wrong things. May the Lord renew us in our baptismal washing…a washing that is far beyond any ceremonial washing…a washing that is valid every day, just as it was the first time we were baptized into Christ. (Romans 6:1-14)
PRAYER: “O LORD, May You build Your Church (Your people) in the ways of Your Grace, Mercy, Peace and Joy rather than us trying to build our version of the church in the traditions of men. Amen.”