There’s an old story that speaks to the heart of tradition and one of the challenges inherent with it.
One day a young girl was spending time with her mother learning how to cook. Wondering why her Mother cut the roast in half and cooked it in two pans, she inquired. The Mother thought for a moment and said, “I’m not really sure, that is the way my Mom taught me, so I have always done it that way as well. Let’s give Grandma a call and ask her.”
The call was placed and after a few affectionate pleasantries, the Mom said to Grandma, “I was teaching Louise how to cook your famous roast and she asked me why I cut the roast in half and cook it in two pans. I told her that I didn’t really know, it’s just the way you taught me. Would you mind telling us the significance of cutting the roast in half and cooking in two pans?”
After a slight pause, Grandma replied, “You know, I don’t know either. That’s just the way my Mother taught me. Perhaps she can explain.” After saying “goodbye” to Grandma, Louise and her Mother dialed the number for GG Maw, Louise’s great Grandmother, and explained their question. GG Maw began to laugh. She then explained, “The reason I always cut the Roast in half was because I didn’t have a pan that was big enough to cook the whole thing. So, I used two smaller ones.”
Three generations later, Louise was being taught to cut the roast in half even though she had a pan more than large enough to cook the whole roast.
The tradition of teaching the next generation is a wonderful one worthy of holding onto for future generations. Passing down a family recipe is another wonderfully admirable tradition. Cutting the roast in half, on the other hand, had no relevance to descendants with the right size pan. This continued merely because it had always been done that way.
Unfortunately, far too many people treat their faith the same way. They show up for Church out of a sense of tradition or religious duty. They say and do the “right” things – or at least what they think is right, because that is what they learned. The problem is, that without relationship and context, we can end up doing a lot of things that are meaningless and energy wasting. If Louise had not asked the question of her GG Maw, the family would have never known that they didn’t need to cut the roast in half and cook it in two pans.
It is increasing popular in our culture to promote the platitudes of the Christian Faith without actually having a Christian Faith. How many times have you seen television shows or movies where the characters say, “You just have to have faith,” or “You gotta have hope?” How many songs do you know that repeat that same theme? Next time you hear one of those or a similar platitude, ask yourself, “What are they telling me to base that faith or hope in?”
I think you will find that often they never tell you. They just leave you to interpret it anyway you want. Most often we don’t even consider it. Instead we unconsciously run it through our own bias filter and assume that it means whatever we would mean if we said it. This is why a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu and an Atheist (I know, it sounds like the start of a bad joke…) can all watch the same movie and walk away feeling as if it affirmed their own faith. The Christian will assume they are talking about Jesus, the Muslim will assume it is about Allah, the Hindu will believe it is referring to the Universe and the Atheist may assume it is referring to belief in one’s self, mankind or may simply write it off as a cultural platitude.
Many speak of God and even attempt to follow Him through the traditions they have learned over the years. Things like being kind to others, caring for the poor, going to church (at least occasionally), thanking God when things go the right way and possibly even placing a well-meaning scripture on social media.
Sadly, these things lead to a form of Godliness that has no power to save or transform. (2 Timothy 3:5) We all love to quote, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) – or perhaps just the cultural short-hand “Nobody’s perfect,” but most of us are far less inclined to remember that without holiness we won’t see God (Hebrews 12:14.) Many of us love to say that we are friend of God, but often conveniently forget that Jesus said, “You are my friends if you obey my commandments.” (John 15:14) If that is the requirement, then knowing His commandments are critically important – and He’s not just talking about the top ten.
Tradition is a wonderful thing that reminds of the journey to who we are and how we got here. Church tradition, when used properly, can serve as a tangible testimony of all that God has done and serve as the basis of hope and faith for our current challenges. But at the end of the day, all the ritual and tradition in the world is powerless to save us from sin and Hell. It is powerless to transform us into the likeness of Christ. Only relationship can bring context, understanding and clarification to our precious traditions.
So, God is challenging us today; On what or whom is your faith and hope based? Is it on the traditions of men, or a relationship with the living God?
Selah (Think on these things)