We never intend to.
Sometimes it just happens.
It usually doesn’t happen quickly. But is a gradual shift.
Here’s my novice take at the life cycle of a custom: An activity is initiated. People like it. It works well. It’s helpful in the moment. It seems worth repeating. It’s repeated multiple times. People like it and want to do it again. It becomes a custom. Change seems unnecessary. Change seems wrong. The custom is set in stone. The custom becomes a sign of orthodoxy.
Or something like that.
This week’s devotions have been based on Mark 2:23-28. The Pharisees had taken the Sabbath that God intended as a gift and made it into a series of laws that were the measure of one’s Jewish orthodoxy.
The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
We all have a Pharisee lurking inside of us that loves to set up rules, rituals, and regulations to guide our Christian life. Best construction says they started with great intentions, pure motives and even a desire to honor the Lord.
But at some point the shift happens.
- We become more concerned about conforming people to follow our customs than connecting them to Christ.
The Apostle Paul helps us keep things in the proper perspective. Customs are just a shadow of the reality that is found in Christ.
Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
All the Old Testament ceremonial laws were formed to a) help people see their need for a Savior and b) give people insights to the work of the Messiah. Once Jesus arrived on the scene and fulfilled all that which the ceremonies foreshadowed the customs had served their purpose. To perpetuate them as if Jesus hadn’t come simply made a good thing of God into an empty, legalistic practice.
The custom was emptied of Christ and the custom became more important than Christ.
Again, this isn’t bashing customs, but is challenging us to evaluate all the customs we have and a) make sure each continues to foster and build a relationship with Christ and b) make sure we always hold onto Christ and his Gospel message tighter than any custom we may engage in.
Apply: Pick one of the customs in your church. Ask someone at the church, “What would you think if we stopped doing…?” Note their reaction. Engage in a dialogue to determine if the custom still is a beneficial asset to point people to and connect people to Christ. How can the custom do that better? Is it time to replace it with a different activity?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to always see first how to keep you first in all we do in your Church. AMEN.