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Traditions: Keep or Abandon?

(The following is the January 17 devotional from my Next Step Devotions book. Before reading it, I suggest you read Matthew 15​ and pay close attention to verses 1-9.)

Traditions permeate much of life. They can bring joy, enhance our sense of belonging, and provide meaning. They can also be unhealthy when made equal to sacred practices prescribed by Scripture. Scribes and Pharisees noticed that Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating. This failure violated the tradition of the elders (v. 2). God didn’t command the requirement; it came from their tradition. That’s a critical distinction.

Christian traditions can be helpful when they point us to Christ and honor his Word. However, we should examine them regularly to see if we still practice them in a healthy, Christ-honoring way or if they have become idols in themselves. The longer individual churches exist, the more likely the danger that some activities, facilities, or traditions become sacred cows that people dare not tinker with for fear of incurring the wrath of tradition’s guardians.

The COVID-19 pandemic that began in 2020 forced many families, churches, and organizations to rethink traditions. Family get-togethers were canceled or postponed. In-person worship happened less frequently, if at all. Small groups accustomed to meeting in close quarters moved to online gatherings, larger rooms, and outdoor spaces or stopped gathering for a time. People made hard choices about what was essential and what they could set aside, at least for a while. Not everyone came to the same conclusions.

Hopefully, changes spawned by the pandemic helped clarify what we believe is essential to our faith communities in the church. Maybe it was time for some routines to change or disappear altogether. Perhaps we’ve also learned that we should never again forsake crucial practices commanded by God’s Word.

Next Step: Evaluate your personal, family, and church traditions. Which ones are consistent with Scripture and should continue? Which ones might you change or abandon as no longer helpful or wise to continue?

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