This statement from the Pharisees could have been mentioned by so many of today’s church leaders. “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” (Matt 15:2) Any of us who have been around ministry for much time, have heard good Christian leaders say something very similar to this statement. They question the actions of someone against the traditions of what just has been going on in the church. ‘We just don’t do it that way.’
It’s easy to point the finger at the Pharisees in the bible in shock and wonder how they could be so blind to the error of their ways. But unfortunately, we continue to repeat their same mistakes thousands of years later. We fall into habits and traditions of our particular church or denomination and forget to weigh those traditions against what Jesus would say. How did this happen? Simply. We took God’s simple law and attempted to simplify or structuralize it with our complicated expectations.
The Israelites did this by adding hundreds upon hundreds of ‘laws’ to ‘explain’ how to apply God’s simple laws. The Pharisees began to elevate their laws and traditions as ‘gospel’ and forgot God’s laws. Jesus’ answer to their attempted trap shows the problem. “He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt 15:3)
Later in another attempt to trap Jesus by tradition, Jesus responds even more clearly. “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37-39)
You see, we are not all that unlike the Pharisees (and nobody wants to admit this). We have our own traditions that we (if we’re not careful) can end up holding in such high regard, we forget the most important thing… love.
Paul summed it up perfectly in a verse that is often referenced in wedding. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3)
You see, no amount of debate, discipline, discourse and determination can make up for any lack of love. And the only love that matters is the kind Jesus refers to, not love that is conditional on how others see or speak of us… but love regardless. Love that is with all our heart, mind, body and soul. Love for others that is equal to the love we have for ourselves.
So this week, I want you to take just one tradition that you hold dear… and throw it out (even if only temporarily). Recognize that your overemphasis on this tradition could be the very thing that is distracting you from expressing real love to others.
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