Tradition is not equivalent to the Will of God. Tradition is not one of the Ten Commandments. Tradition is not listed by Christ as the essence of the Law. Tradition is a set of principles agreed upon at a contextually appropriate time which is believed to make it easier for humans to follow the Will of God. Tradition has a habit of becoming Law which is then used to justify going against the Will of God.
Let us look at an example. One of the Ten Commandments says to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. On this day, you shall do no work. Exodus 20:8-11.
Over time, there came a tradition to help people follow this commandment, it said that work consisted of a giant list of categories, one of which was travel. They declared that to follow the Sabbath, one could only walk 2,000 cubits or a little over one half-mile.
On a practical and contextual level, one can appreciate this type of rule. If one was worried about going against God’s Will, and God says not to do any work on the Sabbath, we want to know exactly what that means. Because God didn’t specify, we decided to declare what work would be. This decision wasn’t arbitrary but determined by a reference to Joshua 3:4-5 which said the distance between the people and the ark of the covenant would be 2000 cubits.
In general, this seems okay. The 2000 cubit rule is not the Will of God, because God did not specify, but it was a helpful tool in bringing comfort to humans to know when they were or not breaking the Law. However, as time passed, this traditional rule became a Law. By the 17th century, people could be fined, whipped, or killed for travelling too far on the Sabbath. What began as a rule to assist the faithful became a tool to condemn them.
When Jesus declared for all to hear that the Sabbath was made for humanity (Mark 2:27), he was breaking apart these false Laws. God doesn’t want you to work so that you can rest as He rested, not because He hates you if you work, but because He loves you and wants you to take care of yourself and your temple. Jesus established the spirit of the Law as one for the benefit of humanity, not to be forgotten, corrupted, and used for abuse.
[[On a Related Topic]]
In light of some recent controversy in my own life, I would like to finish by pointing out that nowhere in Jesus’ two most important commandments, or in the original list of ten, is there any word about homosexuality. In my opinion, the entirety of scripture is not the definitive Will of God, only those things which came directly from His mouth, either human or divine. Even so, we don’t know the context behind the rules established about homosexuality in scripture, or how they were meant to assist the faithful, but I believe they were rules meant to assist. However, turning those rules into a law and using that law to condemn people who desire to love God with all of their hearts, minds, souls, and bodies seems to me to go against the Will of a God of unconditional love.
What would Jesus say if he were here? Stone those who are seeking him or set at liberty those who are oppressed? Uphold tradition at all costs because it never sours or love one another as I have loved you? Marriage is a God-given sacrament or there is no marriage in the kingdom of God, so don’t worry about it?
At the very least, observe the fruit, for by our fruit will we be recognized. What is the fruit of condemning homosexuals who wish to conform in every way to a traditionally defined life of Christ but one? Who among us can say we conform in every way? May the first without sin cast the stone.
Are Christians to be known by the fruit of anger, betrayal, rejection, condemnation, and violence or the fruit of love, acceptance, understanding, and peace? What would Jesus do?
Grace and Peace to you all.