The Traditions of Men

August 27, 2021

In the gospel of Mark (Mark 7:1-8) Jesus calls out the religious leaders of his day for placing centuries old traditions ahead of explicit, biblical directives. (See Mark 7:5-8) I would say not much has changed since Jesus’ day. So many of the churches today still place age-old traditions ahead of God’s written word, or at the very least add superfluous rituals, holidays (holy days) and doctrines to our religious practices.  No, not much has changed from Jesus’ day in that regard. But I suspect that if the everyday person were to search out for themselves in what John Wesley called out as the first “side” (and presumably) the most important of his four-sided quadrilateral -- that being Scripture -- a lot of the traditions of contemporary churches would be history.

For sure, traditions have an immense pull on most people. And as Mark revealed, Jesus, himself, berated the religious leaders of his day for promoting tradition over the written word of God. Yet it’s not surprising traditions hold such dominance over Scripture even today. For as Wesley pointed out, one has to know the Scriptures first before it’s possible to apply the other three sides of his quadrilateral -- (2) tradition, (3) reason, and (4) experience. (Personally, however, I would have definitely placed (2) tradition last on the list after (3) reason, and (4) experience whereas tradition is frequently entered into in a thoughtless and unappreciative manner.) Yes, without an ongoing understanding of Scripture and a solid determination to continually re-enforce its teaching to ourselves, we will never know what proper tradition, reason and experience is.  And without that biblical understanding and continual renewal, traditions will just morph into whatever those walking the “broad way” to the “wide gate” determine them to be. And that just isn’t smart!