Traditions are terrible…right?

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Marriage God's Way - traditions
This was taken at Burney Falls, CA, near McArthur, CA, where Katie and I grew up. It’s a tradition to take a trip back to our hometown most years.

The religious leaders added rules or “fences” to God’s Law. In Mark 7:1-13 they’re called “the traditions of the elders” five times by Jesus. They receive such a scathing critique it’s tempting to think, “Traditions are terrible!” But Paul said, “Brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) and he told the Corinthians,I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you(1 Corinthians 11:2).

That’s a pretty big deal to be praised by Paul, and they were being praised for the traditions they were following! In the sermon I talked more about what made the “traditions of the elders” bad, as well as what makes other traditions bad, but clearly all traditions aren’t bad!

Most of us had traditions in our families growing up. If you’re a parent maybe you still follow some of those traditions having passed them down to your children, and you’ve probably also started some traditions of your own. Cities have traditions: Woodland recently celebrated Planters’ Day. Countries have traditions. Schools have traditions. Businesses have traditions. Organizations have traditions. And of course churches have traditions…

Last week we returned from Family Camp. Before that we had the 4th of July party at the Donalds’. The first Sunday of every month we share a meal together in the fellowship hall. Baby dedications are a tradition (they’re drawn from Samuel and Jesus’ dedications, but they’re not commanded). The only commanded traditions are baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Some traditions aren’t commanded, but they help us obey other commands. For example, fellowship is commanded (Heb 10:25), and home groups will hopefully become a tradition that allows WCC to obey God’s command regarding being in fellowship with each other. We’re commanded to know God’s Word (Matt 4:4; Col 3:16) and Sunday School is a tradition that helps us accomplish that in our lives.

What makes traditions bad? First, and most importantly when they’re given too much weight; when they’re treated like commands instead of traditions. Second, when they’re followed simply for tradition’s sake: it might not be what’s best, but it’s what’s been…a tradition.

2 Responses

  1. Bonnie and I love traditions. Over the last year and a half we have both given up some traditions and have taken on many new traditions.

    For instance, when we began observing the Sabbath commandment, both of us were totally lost as to what to do. So we began to look at our brother Judah to see what it is that they do. We learned of their traditions and began applying them to our lives.

    What we have learned by their example is to treat the Sabbath higher and with greater awe and respect over any other day of the week. Friday has become a day of preparation for us. This is the day we make special preparations for the coming Sabbath. Bonnie prepares all of the Sabbath day meals in advance. I make two loaves of Challah bread. I always make sure to cover each loaf with coarse salt. Not too much as to ruin it but just enough to remind us of His covenant with us. We set the table with our best table cloth and dinnerware. We dawn our best attire and just before sundown I announce the coming Sabbath with the blowing of the Shofar. Bonnie then proceeds to light the Sabbath candles. The candles represent the light of God’s Word, and Yeshua who is the absolute manifestation of His Word. We read scripture together, pray blessings over each other and enjoy a wonderful meal together.

    The next morning we connect with our brothers and sisters and hear teaching by our Rabbi and then after words we close out the Sabbath by enjoying another Sabbath meal usually with another couple that has come to love serving our Heavenly Father in this way. This meal we call Oneg(Delight).

    Truly for both Bonnie and I, the Sabbath day is now a day we both begin to look forward to immediately after it has finished. It is the highest and most set-apart day of our week and we love it.

    1. Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for reading and sharing what you and Bonnie do.

      I really appreciate you lumping all the observances you discussed under the umbrella of “traditions” versus “commands.”

      I think problems often take place in the church when people expect others to keep their traditions and/or observances as if they’re commanded.

      God bless you both!

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