Do Religion & Tradition Have A Place In Today’s Society?
For some time now I have been concerned with the way many in evangelical circles view the term ‘religion’ or ‘religious’ and by the way we seem to eschew anything that even comes close to ceremony, tradition or formality in church.
Let’s start with religion. It seems that we have, by and large vilified the term and seek to separate ourselves from it wherever possible, using terms such as, “It’s not religion, it’s relationship” to describe the faith in and the walk with that we have with Jesus. What we mean, of course is that all of those dead aspects of pomp and ceremony are not what we are about.
James 1:27 clearly states, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
So, it’s not religion that is the issue or that is unbiblical, it is our faulty perception of what religion is and it is the world’s distrust of religions (plural) that make us shy away from it. But as true religion is clearly biblical, surely, we should be demonstrating and embracing it and thus teaching the world the value of true religion, rather than distancing ourselves from it.
Who could object to us looking after the needy (this is not restricted to orphans and widows; it is illustrative of all who are in need)?
Who could object to us living godly, holy, loving lives – not aloof or holier than thou, but committed and dedicated to God, thirsting for streams of living water?
You see, the actual word ‘religion’ at its root means ‘to be bound’. It’s not the same word, however, that you would use if you were tied up against your will or caught in some bad habit that you couldn’t escape from.
It’s about being ‘bound’ to holiness, ‘bound’ to a life committed to God and ‘bound’ in our worship to him. It could be likened to a marriage, where a man and a woman are ‘bound’ together in love, the two becoming one flesh, then with God in the centre, becoming a ‘chord of three strands that is not easily broken’ (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
It is also the same word that can be used for worship. It speaks of a depth of devotion and reverence that goes far beyond much of today’s culture and understanding.
In a world of instant gratification and easy separation from commitments, an act of total and utter, unbreakable life commitment seems almost implausible. It’s so easy to be like that person who looks in the mirror and then forgets what they look like (James 1:23-24):
We come to church, we sing, we listen and then we go away again until next Sunday and we completely forget about what it means to be connected to Jesus!
But did you know when WE commit – God connects. He loves it when we live it.
We have to put our money where our mouths are – or rather our hearts where our mouths are and demonstrate and live our commitment to Him daily!
When we press in to God’s word and abandon ourselves, our desires, our needs, our hurts, our pain, to HIM, then HE is given free rein in our lives and we escalate to a new sphere (James 1:25) of freedom and… Blessing!
So, what about tradition and / or ceremony? A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a friend from another church. I mentioned that we like a sprinkling of traditional hymns in our worship sets; that we sometimes say the Grace or the Apostle’s Creed or maybe the Lord’s Prayer together as a church. He was quite surprised. After all, we’re a modern, forward thinking, forward looking Pentecostal church. Why would we do that?
Well, there are two things here. First, the church is here to minister to people of every generation, not only Millennials or Generation Z’s. And many people enjoy and connect with God through worship songs / hymns and service formats (liturgy) that they really identify with. Plus, some of the older hymns have a depth of theology that is absent from some of today’s worship songs (some, not all) so let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Twice now, in the past year we at BH1Elim Church have put on what we call ‘Precious Memories’ hymn nights and they have been spectacular! These are evenings dedicated to worship, singing all the old classics. It brought a tear to my eye to see our youth group all standing together at the back of the church, arms raised in worship as they cried out to God, “How great thou art”.
Secondly, when we join together in reciting things like the Lord’s Prayer or the Apostle’s Creed, or in saying the Grace together at the end of a service, I find it brings a real sense of determination, unity and of cohesive vision. Don’t get me wrong, these things should never become so familiar that we recite them without thinking upon their meaning; but having a whole church of like-hearted people is massively encouraging, not to mention biblical.
Also, let’s not forget that Jesus himself was no stranger to ceremony. He attended and was well known in the synagogue. He engaged in celebrating the Passover feast and other events and rituals in the Jewish calendar. Jesus recognised the value in tradition and was the absolute epitome of true religion.
May we know the value in tradition as Jesus did. May we not be afraid of celebrating our history as we move forward, bringing true religion to a hurting world.
God Loves You!
For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. JOHN 3:16