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Seeking to equip people to live as Christian disciples wherever God has placed them.

“Whoever is Not Against Us is For Us”

Mark 7:1-13

In this passage Mark makes clear that he is not writing to a Jewish audience.  He has to explain Jewish practices.  Jesus is being criticized by the Pharisees for his failure to follow “the tradition of the elders.”

The fact is that it is impossible to maintain any sort of practice without some guidance from tradition.  We have national traditions (standing for the national anthem, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Labor Day celebrations, etc.).  Schools and clubs have their traditions.

Churches have traditions.  Denominations have practices in the ways they worship and express their faith.  For that matter individual congregations have their own series of traditions which can be as specific as the colors used in the fellowship hall.

There is nothing wrong in maintaining these traditions provided they reinforce the basic beliefs of the church.  The danger comes in when the traditions themselves become the object of belief.  That was the case with the Pharisees.  For them the traditions had taken on a life of their own.  Observing these traditions defined whether one was spiritual or not.

Jesus confronted the religious leaders with their blind adherence to tradition.  Their hearts no longer were focusing on the real matters of faith (“to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God,“ Micah 6:8).  In fact they were manipulating the tradition to enrich themselves.  Jesus reminds us that our authority is the Word of God, not tradition.

In America the Protestant Church, in large part, established a tradition of not drinking alcohol.  They even pushed that to the point where a hundred years ago it became national law.  The Bible however never condemns drinking.  It condemns drunkenness.  Wine is celebrated in much of the Bible (Ps. 104:15; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13; Song of Solomon 7:9).  Jesus turns water into very good wine (John 2:1-11).  Paul recommends that Timothy drink a little wine for his stomach’s sake (I Timothy 5:23).

The church’s efforts at a total prohibition of alcohol failed and was repealed after little more than a decade.  This position (which still exists to this day in some churches) was based on tradition not the Word of God.

Jesus insists that the Word of God is our authority and not tradition.

Eternal and gracious God keep me from worshipping my own traditions no matter how familiar they are.  May I test everything by your Word.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.