Archive for December 17th, 2009

December 17, 2009

Traditions as an Act of Love

“Sweetie, pick up your clothes”  

“Why mommy?”  

“Honey, make your bed.”  

“Why mommy?”  

“Darling, put down The Night Before Christmas so we can light our advent candles.”  

“Why mommy?”  

It is not as though God has given us directives without telling us why. When God gives us prescriptive directions the “why” always follows. In fact, I can’t think of one command given in the Bible where we are not told somewhere within Scripture’s pages the reason behind the command. God likes to answer our “whys” in life. Such is the case with Traditions.  

Since we find biblical precedence for traditions we should ask “Why does God think traditions are important?” The answer to this question is also the answer to “What should traditions accomplish within a biblical worldview?” Someone out there is thinking, “I’d rather you just show me some ideas/ways to be biblical in our traditions.” That misses the point entirely. There are multiple tools out there that can give you ideas if you are creatively challenged, but the point of traditions is not to take home a blue ribbon from a trade show. It is something else entirely.  

1. Traditions are a way to love God. –  

This list is not done in an order of most important to least important – for the most part. However, have no doubt that the top listed items are of the utmost importance. Well, they all are, but after sixteen reasons a pecking order begins to appear. When we look for emotional reasons to do traditions, or more accurately, reevaluate the traditions we do now the thing that should motivate us more than anything else is our love for God. Does this sound funny?  

It is the first reason given in Deuteronomy 11.1 “You shall therefore love the LORD your God.” Everything else derives from it. Simple as it seems, it is the hardest aspect of any tradition to accomplish. The idea of love seems so quaint, comfy and cozy as we gear up for Christmas. The weather outside is perfect for snow. Our cupboard is brimming with hot cocoa to be made, packages wrapped under the tree with delight, songs in the background drowning in harmony – is this not love? Is this…love?  

Consider this: You and I are called upon, yes, required, to love God every minute of every day of our life. Indeed, sin ultimately is us not loving God. Jesus tells us the importance of loving God in Matthew 22:34-38:

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.  

 When regarded from this perspective, it is easy to recognize the importance of traditions and why – at a minimum – we must evaluate their presence in our lives. The connection in Deuteronomy 11 with love and the observance of traditions is the compass that sets us on a path of discovery and success with traditions. This overarching rule of traditions – to love God – becomes our guide forever more as we consider those traditions in our lives and if they make the grade. Scripture is our tutor in this: Just ask “How is this tradition loving to God?” or “Is this loving to God?”

Just as a polished surface refracts a myriad of colors in a bright and wonderful prism, love gives depth as it reveals the multifaceted ways in which we can be biblical in our traditions. The other fifteen ways to be biblical in our traditions that will be mentioned within the next week are in many ways an explanation of what it means to love God in our traditions. But the way we love God through traditions is not inhibited to just the sixteen ways I will mention. In fact, instinctively, inherently you know already many ways to love God and not love God by your traditions. The thing most likely lacking at this point is whether you have been willing to take a spiritual inventory of your traditions.

In regards to love as revealed in Deuteronomy 11 and Matthew 22, it is not as though there is a dichotomy between God’s love and his commands. If you love God you will obey his commandments and you love God by obeying his commandments. That is why John reminds us in 1 John 5:2-3:    

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

This sense of a unity of God’s commands with a love of God is apparent in Deuteronomy 11 as well. Deuteronomy 11:1,8,13,22 gives this summary:

You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. 8“You shall therefore keep the whole commandment that I command you today, 13“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 22For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, [my emphasis]

Consider the impact of coming to traditions with this litmus test. Not only  are we commanded in Scripture to love God, but we are told to give God the glory in all things. 1 Corinthians 10:31 teaches So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Giving God glory starts by giving him our hearts, minds and actions. Traditions, whether they be daily, weekly, monthly or annually, highlight that which we treasure above all else. That is how they inform. That is why they are so important. Do our traditions, those things we repeat to re-teach ourselves, reveal a love for God or a love for something else?

Consider perhaps the oldest recognizable daily tradition in existence. If it is not the oldest it is certainly one of the oldest traditions there is. The saying of the Shema by Jews from Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One.  5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.  7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.  9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

These words, for thousands upon thousands of years, have been repeated by Jews daily – even children. The Shema is rolled up and nailed to the doorposts of Jewish homes in the mezuzah. This ancient tradition, when kept properly – has at its heart to love God. What is at the heart of your traditions?