I’m going to say at the outset that not all traditions are bad – some traditions are enriching, valuable parts of what it is to be human and live in fellowship with other humans. As a fairly new Father, one of the things I can’t wait to do is establish family traditions that will give my family a sense of unity and history as we go through life together. So this is by no means an anti-Tradition rant for the sake of it.
However, there are other traditions that aren’t so good. For example, there’s an old story about a newly married couple and their first roast dinner.
Watching his wife prepare the joint of meat, the husband bemusedly watched her cut two inches from either end of the meat and threw it in the bin. Thinking it an awful waste, he asked her “Why have you just cut those ends off?”
“That’s just how my Mum taught me to prepare a roast. She’s done it all her life, and I never thought to ask her why,” she replied as she carried on seasoning the meat.
“Fair enough,” the husband said. “I don’t want to cut across family traditions. After all, Mum knows best!”
A year or two later, they were visiting the wife’s family for Sunday lunch and he saw his mother-in-law cutting the ends off the joint. As she threw them in the bin, his curiosity was piqued again. “I’m just wondering, why do you cut the ends off the joint? I know you’ve done it your whole life, but I can’t see why!”
“You know, I’m not sure,” the mother-in-law replied. “It’s something I picked up from my Mum, and I never thought to ask her why.”
“I don’t want to cut across family traditions, but I can’t help thinking it’s such a waste throwing the ends away like that. Do you think your Mum had a reason?”
“I’m sure she did. Now you mention it, I’m curious too. I think I’ll ring her and find out.”
So the mother-in-law picked up the phone, called up her mother and the whole room waited as the phone rang. After a while, the Grandmother picked up the phone.
“Hi Mum, how are you?” asked the mother-in-law. “Look, we’ve just been here talking about how you taught me to cook a Sunday dinner. Well, we realised that I don’t know why you always used to cut the ends off a joint of meat before sticking it in the oven. Could you tell me the reason?”
“Oh, of course dear, that’s easy! When I first got married to your father we couldn’t afford a very big oven, and the joint of meat was just too big to fit in. So I used to cut the ends off so that it would fit through the oven door. I guess I got into the habit of doing it. Even when we got a bigger oven years later, I just carried on doing it without even thinking!”
I’m pretty sure this never actually happened, but it illustrates a very important point about tradition. There are traditions that end up robbing people of what could be theirs. The tradition in the story above is a silly example, but it illustrates how a tradition cheated three generations of a family out of all the meat that was theirs to enjoy. In the same way, I believe that the 21st century church has inherited traditions invented over the centuries that have taken them away from the purity of the gospel. They are traditions that pull Old Covenant principles and practices into the lives of those who have been redeemed under the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.
One of Jesus’ criticisms of the Pharisees is that they created traditions and valued them over the word of God. The trouble is that these traditions made the word of God of no effect (Mark 7:13). Where these traditions were accepted, they literally choked the life out of God’s word so that it wasn’t able to have the full effect in people’s lives.
The traditions we have accepted in the church do the exact same thing in the lives of believers today and rob us of our full inheritance in Christ. We fail to realise that there is a profound disconnect between the covenants and that you just can’t mix law and grace and still expect the promises of God to be of full effect in our lives.
In all the years I’ve been writing on this blog there have been many things I’ve heard from preachers and read in books that have challenged these traditions, but I’ve held back from sharing them here out of fear of what people might think. In doing this, I’ve realised that I’ve been bowing down to the very traditions that nullify the word of God and make it of no effect in my life. Well, it’s been going on too long.
I believe God is leading me into a process of detox where the traditions are going to be challenged and chucked out. So, this is me serving notice that I am going to share what He shows me, paying no heed to what people may think or say. The religious traditions have been binding me for too long, and their time is up.
Let the freedom break out!