Friday, July 17, 2009

Tradition vs. Jesus

I stumbled across this little interaction between Jesus and a group of Pharisees during my devotion time while leading a team on a short term humanitarian relief project in Mexico. A group of Pharisees approach Jesus and try to trap Him with a line of questioning regarding His disciples not adhering to the tradition of the Jewish law. The tradition they were referring to is the man-made interpretation of God's law handed down to the people of Israel by Moses. The verse that has rattled around in my heart and in my head since then is this: "Thus you nullify the word of God by the tradition you have handed down. And you do many things like that." (Mark 7:13).

I think sometimes that tradition, or routine, gets in God's way. Think about this for a second. You're sitting in church going through the regular run down of a service...there's some music, the offering, perhaps a prayer and the sermon of course. Maybe there is some sort of video response or other 'activity' you're invited to participate in to make things seem more interactive than they really are, and then you might close the service with more singing. Sometimes I wonder if we need to punt what we have planned and follow where God is leading in a service, or any other part of life. When God beckons you to follow Him, He often doesn't give you a ton of pre-prep time...He simply calls out to you.

Think of the very first disciples who chose to follow Jesus. Simon (Peter), Andrew, James and John were fisherman. They were doing what they normally do to get ready to fish on the day Jesus strolled by and invited them to journey with Him. And what did they do? They left their nets and they followed after Him.

Tradition = convenience. It's so much easier to know what's coming in life. It's easier to plan ahead and to define our future than it is to embrace God's leading and calling in your life. And what's even more insane to consider is that we are planning ahead when we cannot even see beyond today, or even right now. I think it is important to have a plan, but when the plan trumps Jesus, then the plan is the problem.

The Pharisees let their tradition trump Jesus. The sad part of this story is that it's one that happens far too often in our world and in our lives today. Tradition is only beneficial when it is steeped in the very presence of Christ. Without Jesus, we don't have anything anyway.

Does tradition get in the way of Jesus in your life?


  1. I definitely appreciate what you're saying here, especially the part about the "response time" in services to make them seem more interactive than they really are.

    I think though, that more often our attitude is the problem than the tradition itself. It seems to me that we Westerners can walk through life in a semi-conscious state and still get a C+ result. If we prepared our hearts to be attentive to our traditions, I think we'd find Jesus in them much more. Traditions can have a hypnotic affect on us, but I think that's more our fault than the fault of the tradition. After all, the disciples you referred to were going through their tradition (of a sort) when preparing their nets for the morning. How many of us would've just said no to Jesus when he called us during our morning routine? It was their attitude, sense of adventure, and the Spirit's prompting that made the difference for them.

  2. Hey Rachel, just saw this, so sorry for not replying to you sooner! The issue is when tradition becomes the focus rather than Jesus. We tend to elevate the system, the routine and the tradition above the person of Christ when we encounter unfamiliar territory. You see this a lot with funerals. When life doesn't make sense, we go to what we know...we cling to our traditions. If only we learned to transfer our desire to pursuing Christ, recognizing His call, and embrace the disciples' example of dismantling tradition for the sake of Jesus, maybe then we'd learn the key difference between faith and religion.


A Little Something from Psalm 8

 Had a lot of fun with this one.