Words to live by.
I remember the first year my parents decided to eat deer meat for Christmas Dinner instead of the traditional fried turkey we usually had. I’m fairly certain I have never argued over something more passionately than this decision. Food is important to my soul, as you can tell by my rounded appearance. And as mentioned in my last post, I don’t do change well. So to change a family tradition that we had done every year since I could remember didn’t sit well with me. I remember being so angry, so hurt. We had a fried turkey every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn’t see the need to change. What we had always eaten had worked. Why do something different just to have something different? In my mind, I didn’t see the effort it took to do the fried turkey. The fried deer meat would cut down on the amount of work on Christmas day. I also didn’t see where, economically, it would be a better fit for my parents. We already had deer meat in the freezer; a turkey was an extra expense. All I saw was a change that was unwarranted and unwanted, and I didn’t like it.
We ended up having deer meat for Christmas dinner that year, and I loved it. It fit perfectly. We’ve had it every year since. One year, they told me they might try something different. I think I about cried at the thought and they laughed. But this is how I can be at times when traditions are changed. And, at times, it can be problematic. Not all traditions are bad. But when tradition overrides beneficial progression, there are problems that will always arise.
Take a look at the life of Christ. His ministry here on earth was challenging to the traditions of the Jewish nation. They were steeped in tradition, procedure, and Pharisaical law for thousands of years before the arrival of Jesus. But Jesus’ very arrival broke tradition. The Messiah, traditionally, was predicted to come as a ruler that would free them from slavery and bondage. He would be one that would rescue and restore their nation to its former glory and have all other races bow down to Israel. Instead, our Saviour, our great Creator, came down in the form of a servant. A lowly man with a lowly status came to save the world from its sins and restore man to the Lord.
From here, we see Him preaching and teaching in ways that seemed foreign to His nation. Sermons of forgiveness, of compassion, of grace, of love being above all else. Something these people had never heard of nor seen. He broke tradition in every sense to proclaim His Father’s message. It was the message that we still proclaim today, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13 ESV) This definitely was a lesson that had been neglected in Rabbi school. The Jews thought they were the only nation God wanted. After all, they were God’s chosen people. Why would God want to come for everyone?
At times, we can have a similar response to change. “Why?” “Why do something different when what we have works?” “But we’ve always done it this way, why do we have to change the way we’ve always done it?” Now to clarify, do I think we should change everything for the sake of change? Absolutely not. (To quote a hated Harry Potter character, Umbridge) “Progress for the sake of progress should be discouraged.” There are some things we shouldn’t change. We should keep traditions like celebrating Christmas and Easter. We should keep traditions that are beneficial and help remind us of the past and where we’ve come from. But there are times when we are so white-knuckled on tradition, we aren’t open to seeing what God could do in the progression. Maybe God didn’t ordain the tradition. Maybe He never intended for us to turn it into what we’ve turned it into. Maybe He has more. Maybe there are other opportunities for change.
Change is scary. There are often so many unknowns. Change requires faith. It requires a step of saying, “God, this looks different than anything I’ve ever done before. There’s a lot I don’t understand, but I trust that You do. I trust that You are in control.” When we’re able to accept this as truth and trust God’s control, there are countless opportunities out there that He’s been waiting for us to take hold of. God is in the business of new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW creation. The old has passed away; behold, the NEW has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV) “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a NEW thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV) “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are NEW every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)
These verses, along with several others, are examples where the Lord is reminding His people that He is the God of new. He’s the God of restoration. He’s the God of renewal. He doesn’t do things the way we expect. He doesn’t want us to do things the same way just because that’s the way we’ve always done it. He doesn’t want us holding on to tradition for the sake of tradition. Sometimes, He’s calling us to “a new thing.” Sometimes, He’s changing our tradition.