“But – That’s how it’s ALWAYS been!”
Have you ever met those who hold traditions and the Bible on equal ground? I have. In fact, I’ve often BEEN that person. Traditions can be WONDERFUL. Would Christmas even feel the same without those homey traditions we’ve started and kept? However, as wonderful as many traditions can be – some of them can also be very dangerous.
Many think that traditions and “keeping the old paths” means hymn books can never be switched-out for words on a screen and ancient Thomas Kinkade pictures can never be switched out for something a little more updated. Decorations become sacred. Rooms named after people 90% of the church has never met becomes unchangeable. Eyebrows are raised when simple updates are made… and slowly but surely the church begins to die on the hill called “traditions”.
I get it. Change can be HARD. It can be UNFAMILIAR. It can be SCARY.
However, as long as the MESSAGE is not altered, there has to be a point where we relinquish that sinful, controlling will of ours. The MESSAGE is unshakable. The MESSAGE of the Gospel should never, ever be watered down in ANY way possible. I’m not talking about lowering standards or morals here. I’m talking about a willing heart to change the METHOD if it means the MESSAGE reaching more people. We often hold the reins of traditions so tightly that I sometimes wonder if we will ever let go and let God have his way.
If we knew 100% that we could reach more souls with the Gospel while maintaining moral integrity, would we even be WILLING to change things up a little?
But what if that member’s Great Aunt Becky’s cousin catches wind that the picture dedicated to her sister’s husband was moved from where “it’s always been”?? Let it go, friend. Material things cannot come with us when we leave this earth.
“But we simply cannot allow the name of that room to be changed. It was named after people who gave our church money years ago!” Well, what if changing the name helped newcomers feel a little less like outsiders? Would you be willing to change it for them? If the answer is “no” then perhaps you are holding traditions above the Bible.
But what if we change the pews into chairs? “That’s simply not right!” Let it go. We will figure out a way to worship Jesus even if it means standing or sitting on the ground.
But what if the music director skips a verse of a hymn? As silly as it sounds, I’ve known professing Christians that thought hymns were “inspired” like the Bible is inspired and that skipping a verse was sacrilegious. Let it go. While others are praising Jesus on verse number 3, you’re still focused on skipped verse number 2 and thus robbing Him of what He deserves by inwardly criticizing one of His well-meaning children!
What about updating parts of the church that have “always looked that way’? I’m afraid that many of us spend LOTS of money furnishing, decorating and renovating our own houses, but we think God’s House should stay in the 1960’s.
Guess what? We aren’t the first generation of Christians to struggle with keeping our priorities in this area straight. Over 2,500 years ago, the few, the proud, and the faithful also struggled with this concept. A remnant of Jews had gone back to Jerusalem to rebuild after its destruction, but soon got distracted from rebuilding the Lord’s temple. They began focusing on renovating their own homes instead of focusing on renovating God’s House. Because of this, God withheld His blessings and chided them.
“Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled [expensive, paneled] houses, and this house [of the LORD] lie waste?
5 Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.” (emphasis and words in brackets added)
Perhaps 2,500 years later, the message from God to His people remains the same – “Consider your ways”.
Have you heard of the famous missionary to India named Amy Carmichael? Before going to India, she had served for a time in Japan. Amy wrote of a time when the other British missionary women she served alongside considered it socially unacceptable to uncover their feet. They held true to their traditions and wore 4 layers of petticoats and bonnets and gloves and stockings. The whole nine yards. On one occasion, Amy was witnessing to a Japanese woman. Mid-way through the Gospel message, the woman began eyeing Amy’s beautiful glove and the missionaries knew that they had lost her attention for good. It was after that moment that Amy said, “Enough with the tradition!” She knew she was in Japan for one purpose and for one purpose only and that was to share the Gospel with the unsaved. If she had to shuck tradition and wear a kimono instead, then so be it! She would do her best to never be a distraction again. Amy was looked down upon many times in her missionary life by other believers because she simply did not care about upholding “socially acceptable” traditions. While others were wasting away their lives criticizing her, Amy was laser-focused on sharing Jesus with the lost. She never lowered her moral standards, but she was very willing to change the method if it meant the message had a further reach.
Amy’s story has not left my mind. Could our churches reach our communities more if we cared about what REALLY mattered? Where are our priorities? Are we like the Jews referenced in Haggai that cared more about their own homes rather than God’s House? Or are we like those “Christians” who looked down their noses at Amy Carmichael for shucking tradition for the sake of the Gospel?
God will not bless us if we are like either of these examples. We must repent from our ways. We must relinquish control to the Lord. We must ask Him to forgive us for often holding man-made traditions to be equal or above God’s very own words. We have held on to traditions like the Pharisees held on to laws…and we have so often missed it all. We have missed our entire reason that God gave us breath in our lungs.
We are to honor and glorify our Savior. We are to love others in His Name and share the Gospel to a lost and dying world. Without compromising God’s truth, may we be willing to do whatever it takes to do just that.
2 thoughts on “THE BIBLE > TRADITIONS”
Jen, this was an excellent and time worthy article. May”Tradition” never stand in the way of winning lost souls to Jesus!
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