12 Jan 2012

Fiddler, Tradition, & God’s Word

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Church, Discipleship, Ministry

Tradition. It is something each one of us values and shares. We have national traditions and we have family traditions. It is a national tradition to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and cookouts. It is a national tradition, for many, to place flowers on the graves of soldiers on Memorial Day. With these traditions we pass on certain values to our children that we want them to have. We want them to value freedom and recognize the cost of it. And these are worthy values.

In our families we have traditions. We have traditions around Christmas, Easter, and birthdays. We might cook a turkey a certain way, do certain things on vacation, enjoy certain pastimes – all traditional. And there is nothing wrong, per se, with these traditions in the least.

In the church we have lots of traditions. Tradition in church, like family and nation, can be good. Tradition can give us a sense of continuity and identity – good values in themselves. But tradition can also be unhealthy in each of these areas when we become blind to the fact that we do indeed have tradition. Sometimes we might even mistake our tradition as the will of God and demand conformity to our way of doing things.

Traditions are nothing more than the invention of some human through the years. Each arose out of a real life need. Examples. Why do churches across the land have service at 11 am? It is pure tradition rooted in the 19th century. Farmers milked the cows and then would go to the Gathering for worship. What about songbooks? did the church of God at Corinth have any? What about a “church building?” – did the church of God at Corinth have one? What about tiny crackers and tiny cups for communion? What about “Sunday School?” According to historian Earl West, there were no Churches of Christ with Sunday Schools prior to the first decade of the 20th century. What about exclusive congregational singing? Vacation Bible Schools? etc. All of these are traditions. There is nothing wrong with any of these traditions in and of themselves. But we must always recognize the difference between the Word of God and even a good tradition. Everyone must obey God’s Word but nobody has to obey a single one of our traditions! As Jesus said,

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules invented by men” (Matthew 15.8-9)

May we always value our heritage but seek wisdom to recognize that tradition is not the Word of God. May we grant freedom and love in the area of tradition.

Enjoy the video of Tevye from one of the Valentine favorites: Fiddler on the Roof.

2 Responses to “Fiddler, Tradition, & God’s Word”

  1. Steve Says:

    Fiddler On the Roof was performed by our drama department my senior year at Harding. It made an indelible mark on me and conveyed several things to me.

  2. Ron Bartanen Says:

    It has always bothered me that this “apostoic example” has been condemned by preachers. Paul was a Jew, and lived as a Jew among Jews. He was free to practice the law, not as a means of justification, but as an expedient. Jews were not required to give up their judaism. But they were not to bind Jewish customs upon Gentiles. Paul would never have considered bringing such Jewish practices into the practice of the church, which was the fusion of Jews and Gentiles in one body by the cross. At least that’s how I’ve explained it through the years.

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