"Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold on to the traditions that we taught you, whether by speech or by letter." 2 Thessalonians 2:25 (NET)
Over the years, my husband and I have established a few traditions with our family. Some were cultivated from our favorite childhood traditions and some have been established through new routines with our children.
Traditions like, turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and the works for Christmas dinner, opening one gift on Christmas Eve, Friday night family nights with games, movies, popcorn and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and the birthday boy or girl getting to choose dinner on their special day. These small, seemingly insignificant extras have a way of adding value to our time together.
Traditions can be fun, give us something to look forward to, authenticate our experiences, and bring us back “home” when we are feeling adrift.
But what about religious traditions? Are they good? Do they add any value to our faith?
I’ve been guilty of thinking that religious traditions are bad. They are old news. Not really something of value as much as an anchor hindering growth by limiting perspective. And, although there may be merit to this thought, my perspective has changed since re-reading 2 Thessalonians 2:15.
The Thessalonian church Paul wrote to had been under heavy persecution. He commended them for keeping to tradition. It is what kept them anchored and helped them stand firm.
After mulling this over for a while, I realized I was equating tradition with ritual. Ritual can be rote, unfeeling, empty, void of authenticity, dead.
When we perform religious traditions in absence of heart or attitude that is proper for the act, then it is an empty ritual. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer, taking communion, attending church, all can become ritual if performed without the proper attitude of heart. Samuel gave us insight to God’s preference in regard to ritual. He told King Saul, God would rather have your obedience than empty ritual. (1 Samuel 15:22)
When tradition becomes ritual, then it isn’t good. However, when we consider tradition as it relates to Truth-it’s good! Adhering to the Tradition of Truth is holding to the teachings of Jesus and the gospel of our salvation.
Holding to Tradition means not getting caught up in the adaptations and continued flux of the world; and, thereby, compromising moral integrity for the sake of “justice” when that justice is clearly against the Word of God and contrary to Truth.
Tradition IS an anchor. Not one that inhibits growth as I thought earlier; but rather, one that keeps us rooted and grounded in Truth.
As Christian parent’s and educators, it is vital that we teach these traditions to children. They need to know Truth so they can anchor to it to keep them grounded in the Word of God. It is all part of the legacy building we are called to in Deuteronomy 6, Proverbs 22, and Ephesians 6.
What traditions hold value for you, your family and your ministry? Are you spiritual traditions anchoring you to Truth or have they become empty ritual?