“Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, ‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!’ Jesus replied, ‘And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?'” – Matthew 15:1-3
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that “other” people just weren’t getting it right, but, of course, YOU knew a better way? Sometimes we have to get outside of ourselves and our traditions to realize that we may have unknowingly embraced legalistic attitudes.
For example, during my seminary days, my wife and I were serving as missionaries at a Scottish Baptist church. I soon noticed that there was no specific time at the end of the sermon for people to ‘walk the aisle’ to make a decision to join the church or to accept Christ. So, I went to the pastor and expressed my concern. “This is not good,” I told him. “Why are you not doing this?”
He looked at me with a rather condescending smile and said, “Well, Bryant, would you show me in the Bible where it says you’ve got to ‘walk the aisle’ to become a Christian or join a church?” And then he added, “Bryant, would you do a little study and see how the Bible teaches us to make a public confession of our faith in Jesus Christ?”
Well, he was absolutely right. So often we elevate tradition to the level of the Bible. Tradition can be meaningful, but when we elevate it to the level of the Bible, we make it idolatry and ignore the 2nd commandment. Let’s be sure that in following Christ, the Bible is our ultimate authority on how to come to know Him and to live for Him.
Take some time today to reflect on your religious traditions. Have any traditions unknowingly become legalisms? Ask God to bring you back to the core of the Gospel: Jesus Christ.