Psalm 40:1–16, John 7:21–24, Acts 15:1–21
To this very day, churches (and thus the church) struggle with what exactly their faith means and its implications. Certain things appear to have been settled, but others haven’t. Although, perhaps it is better to say that when push comes to shove people will finally get to the point where doctrine and orthodoxy are finally separated from tradition.
In many denominations and churches, tradition has been so wrapped into doctrine and orthodoxy that not following tradition is viewed as dangerous and even non-Christian. As the Church of the Nazarene is rooted in the Wesleyan tradition, we view tradition as a key component to understanding our faith. At the same time, we (as Wesley) are “descendants” of the Reformation, which has as a motto, “Semper Reformanda,” always reforming. In other words, while certain essentials of the faith must be predominately left alone, everything else should be worthy of dispute and conversation.
If we re-read the passage from John and Acts in the light of the above, we see tradition and Semper Reformanda at work. In the Book of John, Jesus heals on the Sabbath, violating tradition, yet reforming the practices to be more aligned with the heart of God.
In the Book of Acts, traditionalists (honestly believing they are doing the right thing) try to get Gentiles (non-Jews) to take on the Jewish rite of circumcision. They get into a discussion with Paul and Barnabas, and it gets sent to committee. However, unlike our committees, a decision was made and shared. The message didn’t denigrate tradition, but it reformed it.
Local churches (i.e., Generations Community Church) often have traditions that had a time and place, but that may no longer be the case. The tradition may be 50 years, 20 years, 5 years, or even 5 months old. Regardless, it should always be viewed as whether it is still effective in sharing the Gospel and discipling believers.
1) Comfort is the big power of tradition. If we look at how Jesus lived, why should that concern us?
2) Tradition is neither inherently good nor bad. How do you analyze the why of a tradition? If you don’t analyze a tradition, why not?
3) Acts 15:2 shows that discussion (even if heated) is good and healthy when it comes to tradition and even theology. Where do you see that respect of discussion happening? Where do you think it needs to happen more?