With two younger brothers, much of my childhood was filled with superhero role-playing. In fact, when we were all under five, my brothers’ room was decorated in the various heroes of the day – Superman, Batman, and good ol’ Spidey. I, of course, was always Wonder Woman. (Hey, it was the 70s, y’all, we all thought Lynda Carter was IT!)
Whenever we played, we always knew our hero’s catch phrase … and the favorite of both boys was Superman. If I close my eyes tight enough, I can still see two tow-headed little boys running about in towel-capes with one arm forward and one back yelling, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”
Now, as a pastor’s wife, I’ve learned the new rallying call in many Christian circles … Tradition, Judgment, and MY way. There are moments in ministry when I feel as though my heart will break. We have lost sight of important principles and replaced them with personal agenda. In doing so, we have also forsaken the priority of God’s Word and His standards regarding our behavior as individual believers and as the Church collective.
We have replaced Truth with Tradition.
Far too many churches have gone far too long without asking the question, “Is this activity, ministry, or function grounded in the TRUTH of God’s Word or in the comfort of our TRADITION?” Paul spoke clearly to the church at Colosse,
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ” (Colossians 2:8 NIV, emphasis added).
While traditions of themselves are neither good nor bad, when we allow traditions to take priority over proclaiming the truth of God’s Word, we have elevated them to an ungodly and sinful place. In all things, we must be willing to ask if the tradition is rooted in and bringing forth truth … or if it has become hollow and focused on celebrating the past rather than crying out the grace of the Gospel.
We have replaced Justice with Judgment.
Oh that we could trust in the justice of God without feeling the need to exact judgment on one another! Again, we find that Paul speaks to this idea,
“Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others … So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (Romans 10:23-24, 31 NIV).
We look around our sanctuaries and worship centers finding reasons that we are better than others – from choices regarding the education of our children to holiday traditions, from socioeconomic factors to generational prejudice, from our own insecurities to others’ previous lifestyles – we can be a judgmental lot! And in being so quick to judge, we lose sight of this simple yet eternal truth: We serve a just God. The reality is while we focus on judging one another the world around us is dying without hope and salvation. We prefer to focus on the loving, forgiving part of God’s nature – but we must never, ever forget that we are called to “Go ye therefore and make disciples” … for the God who has offered us salvation is just and the “wages of sin is death.” (References to Matthew 28:19 and Romans 3:23)
We have replaced God’s Way with My Way.
Churches are filled with people who have been conditioned to “Have it Your Way!” We are consistently guilty of giving corporate worship and fellowship far less devotion that the Lord intended. We come when we feel like it, serve when it’s convenient, and give what we feel we can. Again, we find that Paul has a word for us,
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV).
Paul reminds us that we are called to live in the manner of Christ … not of the world. And Christ’s life was marked by humility (Philippians 2:5-8), service (John 13:2-17), and sacrifice (Hebrews 10:8-10). And so, if we are to live in God’s way, our lives must bear witness to those same qualities. We must lay aside preference and personal taste and focus instead on serving, on forgiving, on giving grace, and on true worship.
Fellow believers, will we be the generation that lays down tradition and self-righteousness, judgment and self-fulfillment, and pride and selfishness? Will we stand up for the TRUTH of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Will we recognize the JUSTICE of the God we serve? And will we submit to GOD’S WAY in all things big and small? Will we?