In the past year, I’ve been to quite a few churches. I’ve seen traditional services, casual and laid back services, and services that fit somewhere in between.
I’m not going to say whether traditions are right or wrong. I don’t think they’re inherently evil at all, just as eating food isn’t evil, but similar to food, traditions can be abused. The problem lies where we place more of an importance on tradition (or lack thereof) than on what the traditions were made to accomplish.
In other words, instead of using traditions to worship God, we can worship traditions instead.
For example, consider communion, or specific hymn- or song-singing, or certain teachings, or rules about modesty. Those things are all good.
The dangerous part comes in when we become legalistic about it all or we throw out the baby with the bathwater. I’ve seen a few specific examples about this in different churches.
Some people say, “The only real Christian songs are hymns. All the new and contemporary ones are a waste. They’re all just meaningless blabber.”
As much as some hymns are better than some contemporary worship songs, not all hymns are actually doctrinally correct, and not all worship songs are empty or shallow.
By placing a reverence on traditions such as singing hymns and hymns alone, we worship the creation rather than the Creator. (Does this sound like the Tower of Babel to anyone else?)
We can wind up worshiping songs (whether hymns or contemporary songs) and emphasizing how great our preference is, instead of using the songs to worship God. Generalizations in the name of tradition should not be made.
Another example that I’ve found is in the practice of baptism. So many Christians get hung up on this practice, thinking baptism the absolute MUST for Christians to attain salvation. Sometimes, we put so much of an emphasis on the idea that “without baptism, you can’t truly be saved” and that is totally not true. Baptism is a sign for believers to say “Hey! I love Jesus and my soul has been saved by Him!” and not to actually be saved by. But when we praise baptism instead of using baptism to praise God, we miss the entire point.
Let’s consider communion, or The Lord’s Supper. When we take it, are we really worshiping Jesus, or are we worshiping a symbol?
When we see God’s creation, are we worshiping the stars or the God who created them?
When we dress certain ways, are we putting the emphasis on the clothing, or the God we want to honor by what we wear?
The last thing I want to come off as in this post is “preachy.” To be honest, friends, I don’t have it all together. I’m not perfect, and I have my own struggles. I’ve never done anything perfectly, and I think we all (myself included) have put emphasis on the wrong things from time to time.
The purpose of this post is to make us all think twice about why we do what we do. What or who are we worshiping when we practice our traditions? Where are our motives? What is our agenda?
Again, I don’t want this to be a post of condemnation. All I ask is that we think. The next time we’re at church or practicing a tradition at home, we should stop, and ask ourselves, why?
Are we using our traditions to worship God, or simply worshiping our traditions in the name of God?