Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8)
Many Christians tend to get wrapped up in a façade of tradition. They insist that hymns and hymns alone can be sung in the church, the King James Version is the only God-inspired translation of the Bible, and drums should certainly be banned from the church sanctuary.
Curiously, these people are not concerned with real tradition. What they advocate is spiritual nit picking. True tradition never persists for its own sake. A sound idea always lies behind true tradition. For example, a century ago, Christians sang hymns in church as worship to God. The idea behind singing hymns, for these people, was worship—the idea was not just to sing hymns. The foundational element of this tradition, then, is worship.
G. K. Chesterton suggested that tradition is “the democracy of the dead.” He believed the opinion of the small minority that happens to be alive and attempting to define “tradition” is comparatively insignificant when compared to all the generations that have lived on this earth. In light of this, we have a responsibility to honor the voice of the dead as well as the voice of the living.
How are we honoring the saints that have died when we do exactly what they did, the way they did it, for the nonsensical reason that “it’s tradition?” This behavior is anything but traditional. The saints of the 17th century wanted clarity of Scripture, so they read the King James Version, which was the language of the time. The idea was understanding the Word, not reading the King James Version. The KJV was the vehicle for revelation. How, then, can we call it traditional when people insist that the King James Version is the only valid translation, an insistence disregarding translations seeking clarity in contemporary language? Once again, the idea of understanding has been sacrificed for the vehicle, showing the gravest of disrespect to the dead.
We must be wary of such false tradition. We must look deeper into what is truly traditional. What were the ideas and motives behind the actions of previous saints? When we earnestly ask that question, we are genuinely honoring tradition. We are seeking to preserve more than the mere wineskin—we are seeking to preserve the wine.
Father, keep me from getting wrapped up in a checklist of tradition. Instead, show me how to keep my walk with you fresh.