“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, March 12, 2007

Traditions of the church

Mark 7 is the passage where the famous verse in Isaiah is quoted by Jesus. He says,
These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men
That section has always grabbed me as I wondered how I am guilty of that indictment, and also about how the church is guilty of that indictment. However, as I read on in the passage, there are several other comments by Jesus that really grabbed me. He is talking about the practice of "corban" but I think the passages still apply. Think about these sections as they may relate to the church's ignoring of persons with disabilities, the exclusion of people with disabilities, the traditionally often heard perspective that people with disabilities are not a priority for ministry. In verse 8

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of

And then in verse 13
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition, that you have handed
down. And you do many things like that.
Jesus confronted the theological experts over their tradition of corban. He says "you have left the commands of God and are holding onto the traditions of men." The Jews has fallen into generations of missing the point and doing the wrong thing. Sound familiar? What is the result? "...you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down."

The church has left the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men in regards to people with disabilities. In fact in some ways, the traditions of men have changed and the church remains entrenched in a past form of the traditions of men. And what is the result? We are nullifying the word of God. No wonder that when a friend from the East coast was asked to receive counseling from pastors at a particular church, he responded "They do nothing for people with disabilities. Why should I receive counseling from them?" It would be as if someone had recommended in Jesus' time that someone go to the Pharisees to receive counseling in the ppractice of corban. The leaders presented themselves as respresenting God, however, as Jesus says, "you have let go of the commands of God...you nullify the word of God by your tradition." We as the church, nullify the word of God through our discriminatory traditions. We nullify the word of God through our prioritizing traditions. We nullify the word of God by our distancing of persons with disabilities in our traditions. We nullify the word of God by making church membership only accessible to those who can meet criteria based upon intellect. I wonder how people ever evidenced a faith in Christ prior to our times of saying the right phrases. All people had to say to Jesus was I believe and he accepted them. Today you have to behave a certain way, have certain social skills, memorize certain statements, assent to certain theoligical positions, and so on and so on. Now understand, I am not saying we just become a place where people believe in anything. At the same time, however, if our traditions are contrary to the word of God, and are actually nullifying the word of God, we have got to scrap our traditions.

Our traditions are exclusionary, and discriminatory, and intollerant of people with individual differences. It makes for an interesting Bible lesson when you are teaching people who don't have the greatest of social skills or don't quite understand how the traditional dynamics of a class should be acted out. But it also is very refreshing to be in a place where you comments are valued, whether they be about the impact of the Bible verse you are teaching, or to ask you for a dollar, or to discuss hot dogs and pizza.

It is time, in my humble opinion, that we step back and examine our traditions within the church. Tradition is not always the best reason for doing something. Tradition may be the absolute wrong reason for doing something, particularly if it nullifies the word of God.



Impossibleape said...

words such as these and the lives of the disabled among us may yet bear the force of revolution

a revolution of true chrsitian love

a revolution that can save the church from itself

Anonymous said...

I often wonder if we put too much energy into how the church can fill the voids in our lives. Do we not stand in the way of Christ when we try to organize what we think people need? What about those traditions, and what we have made church to be? If people come to know Christ and His love for them, and the true meaning of the cross, would it not be more like true worship? The church being the place of worship, the body being the people reaching out to one another for the common purpose of honoring God and worshiping Him. If we can help people to seek Christ and Christ alone, and through Him, the help comes from others. Then if the church does not meet the need the person can see that they still have Christ. My most intimate times with the Lord have been my most lonely of times in the world. We need to help build up a body of beleivers that lean into Christ for all their needs. If we became more dependent on Christ we would become more interdependent on each other in Christ's love. "Without Christ, we are nothing" we need to put Christ back where He belongs, at the center of our lives and at the center of our churches.
Belleville, Canada