Traditions can be tricky…

Growing up in a Catholic home, I was steeped in religious tradition. Going to mass every week meant you followed many, many traditions. Stand up. Sit down. Make the sign of the cross. Bless yourself with Holy water as you leave, etc. etc. For the longest time, I equated these traditions with God.

But God is SO MUCH MORE than these traditions!

I am not knocking the Catholic church, please don’t think that.  However, for me personally these traditions became a stumbling block to me in a way.  It was so repetitious. Repeating the same words every week and the same prayers every week made my mind numb. My mouth could speak the words of the prayer, but my mind was a million miles away.

There is nothing wrong with traditions, necessarily, so long as they don’t become a stumbling block. So long as they don’t replace the relationship piece. So long as we don’t hold them over people’s heads and believe that our tradition is the only right tradition.

Moving around a lot over the years has meant that my family has had to change churches several times. It is always a journey to find the right church in a new city. For me, it has really brought to light the immense differences that can be seen throughout churches in our country, despite all believing in the core basics of doctrine. Each church does things a little differently. Each denomination does things a little differently.

It’s funny, we went from attending a denominational church that believed in the gift of tongues to a different denominational church that forbid the use of this gift in its church. HA!  I can’t stop thinking about this irony.  I honestly have never been given this gift myself, and it was almost a stumbling block for us in that first church that believed in this. However, we did a lot of reading about it in the Bible (it’s certainly there!) and we continued to feel the presence of God moving in a powerful way in this church, and so we made it our church home.   Yet, we knew that speaking in tongues, or not speaking in tongues, really was not what the point was. JESUS was the point, and so when we found our new church that forbid this, we laughed a little at the irony and then continued to ask ourselves, “do we feel the presence of God in this church?”

Because in the end, it’s not about traditions. It is not about the man-made rules. It is all about Jesus and what He has done for us. It is all about our personal, growing relationship with the Creator of the world. It is all about LOVE.

Jesus was actually confronted and asked what was the greatest commandment to follow.  His answer was not, “say this prayer three times every day and make sure you speak in tongues (or don’t speak in tongues).”

No, his answer was SIMPLE.

Love God.

Love others.

It’s as easy and as hard as that.

And when we complicate the message, when we lay down rules for people to follow, when we look down on others for doing things differently then us, then we are doing a huge disservice to the world. I can hear Paul exhorting us, “People – this is NOT how it should be. One says I am a Catholic. One says I am a Lutheran. One says I am a Methodist. NO, NO, NO!  We are all ONE in Christ. We are all to follow Jesus. That’s it.”

One of my favorite books, “Accidental Pharisees” by my old Pastor Larry Osborne has some wonderful truths throughout. One particular great passage says:

“Those of us who have a bent toward a rigid and rule-based expression of our faith tend to judge and condemn those who don’t follow our rules or match up to our standards. At times we can wonder if they are genuinely saved. Meanwhile those of us who consider these rules and standards unnecessary tend to look with disgust and contempt upon those who insist on keeping them. We chalk them up as uptight and narrow-minded. According to Paul’s exhortation, both responses are dead wrong.” (Romans 14-15)

I will be the first to admit that I have stood on both sides of that fence, as the accuser on each side, as well as the condemned on each side. And none of it feels good. None of it is what Jesus desired. No, my friends. What Jesus desired is for us NOT to place stumbling blocks in our brother’s way. Jesus desired for us to keep it focused.

Love God.

Love others.

Keep it simple.

religion-relationship

44 thoughts on “Traditions can be tricky…

  1. This is a great window into two very different styles of worship. Both put Jesus first, which is awesome. I was nondenominational for a long time until I found my home at a Baptist Church a few miles from my home. I have frequented Catholic churches a lot, because my best friend is Catholic and we enjoy worshiping together. I loved the tradition of the Catholic Church, I thought it to be beautiful and unifying. I have also frequented churches where people spoke in tongues. Both churches had a way of leaving me in awe of the Lord. I encourage people to branch out and try other kinds of churches! I find it to be refreshing! Great perspectives here. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, absolutely agree! Growing up in a Catholic church, it is comforting to go back to a mass and those traditions. They are indeed unifying within that church. There are many different styles of worship and so long as our focus remains the unifying of the entire Church with a big C and not focusing on those differences. Instead focus on the unifying love of Christ. Thanks for your lovely comment!!! 😍😍

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have written an excellent post! I sometimes write about how denominations can divide us. I try to demonstrate by attending different churches at times, is that I am entering God’s house. I have been welcomed in many! Our personal relationship with Jesus is what matters! I often ask that we communally pray for greater unity among denominations. Thank you for sharing your walk of faith!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Rick. Seeing unity amongst denominations warms my heart, as I’m sure it does God. My hometown offers a warming shelter in the winter for the homeless, and all the local churches get together and share the burdens of such a ministry by each church taking turns hosting. It is a beautiful display of the type of unity I believe God loves to see. I wish we could see more of this- what a statement it would make to the world!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. you nailed it!!! the one that forbid the GOD’s gift is worst because it’s rejecting GOD’s sovereignty..i doubt if GOD’s in that place…i know the struggle you went through to get a proper church..sad we meet all kinds of church and people that bother least about what GOD says and replaces it with man made rituals…. Jesus, Peter and Paul talked about Spirit’s gift and these days we have people who think they are smart than Jesus isn’t it???

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for commenting gadolelohai. Honestly, we had never encountered tongues before in a church, and as I said, it was almost an issue for us until we researched it further for ourselves. Although we have never had this experience personally, we did not doubt the experience of other people who did. And we don’t doubt the faith of those who don’t. Both are loved by God. And I should be clearer that the church denomination I was referring to doesn’t necessarily forbid the use of this gift, only forbids the use in church I believe (and quite frankly there are Bible references that guide churches to appropriate use of this gift so as not to cause a problem for a newcomer who doesn’t understand what is being said.) Anyhow, the point in the end is that we humans can tend to over complicate something that Jesus tried to simplify. Love God. Love others. 😍😍 Thanks for reading!!! ☺️☺️

      Liked by 2 people

  4. It is rather simple…love god…love others…and yet we as people….broken people….sinners…make it SO MESSY….and that’s what makes Christmas so amazing…God’s gift of a savior….what a fabulous reminder this time of year

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Amen, amen beautiful sister! You are right on the money! How many times have we talked about the impossibility of finding “the perfect church”?!?! 😂 they don’t exist because they are all run by broken people in need of a savior. The best gift of all… JESUS! Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. People ‘invented’ religion to establish contact and relationship with God. And since it was established through human effort, religions tends to be confusing in a way. That shouldn’t be the case. On the first place, it was God who first established His relationship with us [humans] thru the cross of Christ, and from there is where we should start nurturing and strengthening what was already built and established.
    You are right, Christianity is all about loving God and loving others. It’s absolutely all about relationship – relationship with God and with our fellow human beings, nothing more, nothing less.
    Brave post. I love it. Awesome!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Andrei. It was a very stretching (brave) post for me. I was (still am) anxious worrying that this will be taken the wrong way by many. But it’s been in my heart for awhile and needed to spill out in a post. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I absolutely agree with you!!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Well said. One adage that many are quick to recall but rarely understand fully is that two topics – religion and politics – always lead to arguments. The fact is, the two are one. Just flip sides of the same coin. We cannot say this is true about faith and politics,as faith is dependent on relationship, while religion is dependent on rhetoric.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Shared on Facebook with the following – This is so pivotal to faith, it’s simplicity may make it complex for some. We strive to keep our traditions intact, perhaps because to let them go just may take us out of our comfort zones and into the realm of the impossible. BTW, if your view of God considers some things “impossible,” your traditions may have taken His place.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There was a reason Jesus called one viewed as a traitor, and one who clearly espoused categorical societal cleansing from Israel of “traitors” to become brothers as Apostles. If He, through the work of the Spirit could make these two men closer than blood relatives, He can do the same for us. Ephesians 3:14 – 21 wasn’t written with divisions in mind. It was written to all who had an ear to hear what the Spirit was saying to the Church.

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  8. I won’t judge denominational or Catholic beliefs, but I go by nothing but what the bible says. Here’s an interesting verse…”Thus you nullify the word of God by the tradition you have handed down. And you do so” in many such matters.” (Mark 7:13).

    May I suggest that you are on the right path in searching out what God really wants for us, and how we get that. Please look at a book called “Muscle and a Shovel.” You can find out more about it at: “muscleandashovel.com.”

    Steve

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You’ve done a good job of addressing a complicated issue with compassion and balance. I’m glad there are so many different kinds of churches, because there are so many different kinds of people. I find it interesting that many of the people in my Episcopal church find rituals and traditions comforting while I have encouraged us to look for ways to make things less complicated for the benefit of new folks and because, occasionally, I find looking for what page supposed to be on has distracted me from my connection with Jesus. But I’ve stayed at this church for many years because of the love and acceptance I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, JoAnna! 🙂 You’re right, there can be a lot of distractions in any church, really, and certainly in the world. We need to be intentional to keep our focus on what matters. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I love it! Traditions are great if they help you get closer to God but they are not great if they are enforced as the truth and only way to worship!
    Thank you very much for sharing this! I needed to read this this morning!

    Liked by 1 person

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