Pentecost 14, Wednesday, Year B

Inspired by Mark 7:9-23

“Then [Jesus] said to [the Pharisees and the scribes], “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!” Mark 7:9 (NRSV)

For much of Christian history, literacy rates were low and only the priests and religious leaders were able to read the bible. They told everyone else what the bible said, and they also established many extra-biblical traditions that made sense for their times and circumstances.

Today most Christians can read the bible in their own language. But many do not, relying instead on what they have been told by their pastors, by their parents, by famous and successful preachers who publish books and produce television shows, even by random people on social media. Some of what is being passed around is accurate; much of it has nothing to do with biblical Christianity, even as it claims otherwise.

We all rely on a mix of biblical promise and human tradition to pattern our lives of discipleship. If a human tradition is helpful to us in living lives that honor God’s commandments, then there is nothing wrong with it. But if a human tradition actually prevents us from obeying God’s commandments, then that tradition is harmful and should be disregarded. For example, many Christians put a lot of effort into living righteously and remaining unstained by worldly influences. Unfortunately that often translates into avoiding or even condemning other people, which violates Christ’s command to love your neighbor as yourself. The truth is that it’s easier to keep ourselves separate than it is to love our neighbors—regardless of who they are or what they do—but we cannot let our comfortable traditions stand in the way of obeying our Lord.

What Christian practices are central to your faith? Are they in the bible? Is the context clear? And most importantly, are they helping you to obey the commandments of God?

Let us pray. Holy Lord, there are many ways to worship and honor you. Enable us to discern the difference between our own traditions and preferences, and those things which you truly require of us. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.