The concept of tradition, to many, brings to mind culture or maybe mythology. While I might not debate with whatever this word means to you I will want to appeal to your open-mindedness as I relate it to our existing pattern of how we understand and represent it.
I will define tradition as a system of rules, laws or moral conduct used to qualify or disqualify a person (or people) based on adherence and obedience to those beliefs, laws or rules.
The origin is positive but its interpretation is, most often, perverted by a body of adjudicators (or enforcers) that exists to superintend the performance of required acts by adherents.
As Convenient or as Commanded?
“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” Matthew 15: 1-3
The Pharisees were religious leaders who had taken the word of God, passed down from Moses and the prophets (the Torah), and written a commentary on it interpreting what the scriptures said (this is called the Talmud). Then they wrote another commentary on that commentary called the “Mishnah”. The Mishnah was a list of hundreds rules to meet in order to insure that you were obeying the word of God. These were traditions created by man and had little basis in the actual scripture, hence using them to establish that individuals who ‘perfectly follow the tradition’ (if any truly exist) are better than some people is simply a ploy adversative to God’s plan for humanity because it only builds a convention of breaking the commandment to uphold the tradition.
Consequently, Jesus deplored this! He condemned the way the Pharisees used the people’s love for God (or fear of God) to control them and empty them of the relationship with God that was intended. He wants us to do as commanded and not as convenient.
The Tradition of Manipulation in Denomination
Certainly, I know it will be hard for many to agree with me that we have been living and functioning with traditions from our unwritten generational Talmud. Over the years Pentecostals think the Orthodox system is old, demonic and outdated while the Orthodox think the Pentecostal system has watered down the standard and replaced substance with style, trend and greed. People are entitled to their views and perceptions, right or wrong, but must recognize that they equally accountable for them.
One thing we all have in common is how we easily blame the Pharisees of things, we, who have since morphed into modern day version of New Testament proud religious law-keepers, are equality guilty of.
How do I know? I found out of some traditions I cleaved to and sub-consciously used it to judge people. For example, I usually visit jail in our community (with volunteers) to hold Sunday service for the incarcerated. During one of our services, a number of the inmates remained seated while some were lost in worship with their arms ‘lifted high’, like we always love to see in church, during worship session.
For a minute I stood wondering why they were seating down when worship is going on. Then a bell rang in my head that I was judging them based on the tradition of standing or kneeling during worship that I had grown up with in church. There might be unpretentious reasons why they were not standing .Some might have health issues and others might not even be Christians and this might be there first time to a Sunday service and so we should be glad they came to hear about Jesus Christ for the first time instead of trying to enroll them in the school of tradition that God is not bothered about!
While salvation helps to convict and reconcile us back to God, tradition aims to enslave us and in some cases condemns us.
All in all, I left the service resolving not to focus on religious things that glorify our tradition while ignoring even the most basic needs of salvation and commandments of God.
Denomination is Man-made
The question, “why do you guys have so much denomination in Christianity” has always been thrown at me, in my years of working with people of different race, religion and culture. My answer has always been ‘denomination is man-made, and those who focus on Jesus Christ (That which unites us) look beyond man made doctrine or traditions where people use (or abuse) their influence, trust and position of authority in convincing, manipulating, forcing and in some cases threatening their audience to believe their aggrandized version of truth.
God’s Commandments are Supreme.
Traditions emanate from an adopted pattern of living, i.e. a set of customs or beliefs that passed on through generation. In most cases, it translates into doctrinal concepts thereby interfacing with God’s divine doctrine with a rigidly contrasting and delicate dichotomy. In essence, traditions are man-made, as such cannot supersede or supplant the rules of living as enshrined in the word of God ; simply put, a man’s rules on how he lives his life cannot attain a level of supremacy over the rules of his creator/maker on how he should live. In as much as it sounds like a cliché, and though men, every so often, twist it for their subjective benefit, it sure is true that God’s commandments are supreme.