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.