How can you tell if customs are taking a higher priority than they should?
Let me give you three to reflect on.
- We are more concerned about policing people’s behavior than pointing people to Christ.
The Pharisees Jesus confronts in Mark 2:24 were concerned about whether or not Jesus and his disciples were doing the right thing on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a gift from God to rest physically and spiritually. Unfortunately, when a practice in the church loses its focus on Christ, it often becomes a law some feel the need to police. The concern becomes whether someone is doing the practice correctly more than if someone is connecting to Jesus.
We are not exempt. We can quickly slip into the “Customs” police (and I’m not talking about border control!) when we become more concerned about people following the “rules” of the church, doing the “rituals” correctly, and adhering to the regulations. What does this sound like? “Look, they put the ornaments in the wrong place on the Christmas tree. We shouldn’t ask them to help again.” “Look, their baby is crying and making a fuss. Don’t they know they belong in the nursery?” “Look, they brought their coffee into the worship area. Don’t they know drinks aren’t allowed.” (Insert your own experience.)
I am not encouraging chaos, just a heart that keeps a higher concern for connecting people to Jesus than being the “Customs Police.”
2. We are more concerned about looking good than actually doing good.
This cuts to our heart as often our outward actions don’t match what is going on in our hearts. We can be what Jesus condemns, “You honor me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.” Church can sometimes be a façade where we seek to put on our best outward show of goodness, yet we fail to carry that over to the rest of our week. Pharisees sought the praise of people for their outward show, yet Jesus condemns it and reminds them and us, that what is most important is the heart captivated by and for Christ. The rest flows from the heart.
3. We are more concerned about perpetuating customs of the past than proclaiming Christ to the future.
The Gospel is for every generation. Sometimes the forms that served one generation to meaningfully communicate the Gospel, just don’t have the same benefit for another generation. A boomer generation may question why devices and screens are needed in church. But the use of these may be a new tool and way of bringing the Gospel to the hearts of youth. One generation may say, “We’ve always passed the offering plate. We can’t stop doing that.” But a new generation may find the regularity and joy of giving of using an electronic method. One generation may find great joy and comfort in the sound of the organ. Another generation may find the sound of guitars and drums. One isn’t wrong and the other right. Each serves as a custom or practice of one generation or multiple generations. However, for the sake of the Gospel, we may choose to let go of a practice of the past to ensure Christ is proclaimed effectively to the future.
Customs and traditions can be a wonderful aid to the Gospel. They can be passed on for generations. Yet, the custom must never overshadow Christ and the custom must never become more of a concern than Christ himself.
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Enjoy the customs…keep Christ as the main concern!
Apply: What custom do you enjoy, that you suspect doesn’t have the same significance to a younger generation? What change might be necessary to ensure the future generation has Christ as their main concern?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for meaningful customs. Forgive me for letting customs I enjoy overshadow Christ who I love. Help me and my church family to always keep Christ as our main concern. AMEN.