My daughter is leaving this week. She’s leaving for college, and my life will once again forever be changed, just as it was when she first came to live with us. Although she’ll be only a few miles away at college, we won’t see her every day or have time to spend with her. I’ve been warned about this day, and next Friday, when I help move her into her dorm room, we’ll see how ready I am for it.
Change is inevitable. Political candidates talk about change, each one having a better idea than his or her predecessor. Our current president ran on a platform of change; some of his changes we aren’t so happy about. We grow and we age and our bodies change, for good or for bad depending on which side of the spectrum we stand upon.
The Christian Church is in such a time, as society is changing more rapidly than ever. No longer is the church the center of society as it once was. No longer do school districts respect “church night” on Wednesdays. Our kids are over scheduled. Our homes are like stops on a turnpike—there just to get some rest, get “gassed up,” and we are off again.
How do we cope with change in our society? Is our society truly post-Christian, as some authors have suggested? Is there truly no room for real-life, vital Christian living any longer?
The Pharisees weren’t much for change. Because of the coming of Roman occupation they walked a tightrope between living as the Law commanded and following the regulations of the Roman leaders. But in all, they were faithful to the Law and were the stalwarts of Jewish tradition. Unfortunately, the tradition, as is often the case, became more important than a vital, living relationship with the Lord of the Jews.
Enter Jesus Christ. Although he was born a Jew and raised in the tradition of faith, Jesus was more than just a good Jewish boy who would follow the status quo of tradition. As He began his ministry, those who heard him were often scandalized by Jesus’ familiarity with God and approach to faith, and Jesus pulled no punches with those who valued tradition higher than relationship.
Jesus was an agent of change. He didn’t come to destroy the law or the tradition but to bring it to fulfillment. He criticized those who were the most religious of the Jews, not because of their religiosity, but because their tradition had become more important than their relationship with God.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23).
In day-to-day life, the Pharisees following the rules handed down to them. They prayed appropriately and kept the requirements, but they held so tightly to those prayers, rules, and requirements, that they couldn’t see what God was doing in their midst. The very law that they so studiously searched told them about the One who was to come, and yet they were so tied up in activity that they didn’t recognize him.
In today’s church, the question needs to be asked, Would Jesus be pleased with our approach to faith and tradition? Are we finding a balance between the tradition and what it actually represents? Have our traditions become more important than the reason for them?
I’m not talking about excusing sin. We are never to “wink” at sin for the sake of living with those around us. The Bible calls us to faithful interpretation of the Bible and faithful living, and there are some changes that should never be made. Neither should we throw out the tradition just for the sake of change. What I’m asking is, are we listening to what God is asking of us?
So as things change around our house this week, I’m hoping you will take some time to consider the changes occurring around you. Then, take some time to pray and seek God to find out where God might be leading you. Who knows, the path may have an exciting turn ahead that we just might miss if we’re too busy looking backward.