“Churches are to be biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counter-cultural communities that reflect God’s kingdom for His glory among the people around us at all times.” – Ed Stetzer.
A tradition is a teaching or practice handed down from one person to another. Church traditions fall into two categories. Some are honorable, beneficial, and timely. Others are outdated, unproductive, and restrictive. In Colossians 2:8 Paul warns about human traditions: “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.”
The enemies of Jesus continually attacked Him over His disregard for human traditions. A case in point is found in Mark chapter 7. The Pharisees confronted Jesus because His disciples failed to pour water over their cupped hands before they ate. Over the years, hand washing had been elevated to something seen as a necessity for pleasing God.
The Pharisees challenged Jesus, asking, “…Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.” (Mark 7:5). The Lord answered the question about tradition with Scripture: “…Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God” (verses 6-7). Jesus drove the point home when He said, “For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” (verse 8) Jesus was accusing them of being more interested in keeping man’s traditions than in keeping God’s commandments. In verse 13, Jesus pointed out the greatest harm from the Pharisees: “And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”
So, what does this have to do with us? Simply this: We too, must be careful we don’t elevate long-held traditions to the level of biblical directives. In other words, are we doing things a certain way because we have always done them that way?
When Jesus came on the scene and spoke God’s Words to God’s people in simple, understandable, and applicable terms, they were viewed as strange. We don’t want the message of Christ to be derailed by the method of delivery. We do not want to be so in love with traditions of the past that we miss loving and reaching people of the present. Or that we are more enamored by the way we do church than by the people who need Christ.
- How can you keep our hearts close to Jesus? How can you be careful that your following Jesus does not become an external ritual?
- How does Colossians 2:8 apply to your life?