Tradition (noun): the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way
In Isaiah 55:8, God says His ways are not our ways and neither are His thoughts our thoughts but in the world we live in today, how many of us try to figure out how God operates, based on what we are told by others or based on the experiences of others?
Growing up in an African home, you are almost guaranteed to hear 'we are Africans' when you challenge the status quo or traditions your parents try to pass down to you. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love a tradition and the idea of passing some down to my children excites me! But I constantly ask myself, how can I balance this with my faith and ensure that what I pass down to my children stands the test of time? It could be as simple as starting my own tradition, ditching what my parents have passed down to me. Do I risk forcing my children to feel like they need to fit a man-made mold in order to feel like a true 'African'? I don't know, but these are the things I reflect on.
There is a dangerous point we sometimes get to when we start to value the traditions of men over what God expects of us. Sometimes, we rely on these traditions (by the way, these can also be doctrines...) to help us navigate what can sometimes be challenging and uncertain periods in our lives. There are times when God takes us through a situation and in the absence of a relationship with Christ, we sometimes seek the counsel of men who live by tradition. The pharisees in the Bible were the masters of tradition; they would often rebuke Jesus for his complete disregard for their traditions. In one example (Mark 7), the pharisees rebuke Jesus when they see his disciples eating bread with unwashed hands (the horror!). Jesus promptly rebukes them, accusing them of honouring God with their lips and not with their hearts (Mark 7:6) and this, unfortunately, is true of many Christians today.
I do not write this to condemn anyone who does follow tradition, but rather to encourage us to evaluate the value we place on traditions, especially when we are made to feel condemned for not following these traditions or doctrines. I have had many experiences where I felt condemned because my actions were deemed to be non-traditional and as a result, I questioned my growth as a Christian. And actually, I'm glad I questioned (not doubted) my growth; I had a strong enough conviction to go back to God's word and see what God's perspective was. Sometimes, in an effort to please God, we have taken a restrictive stance on things without allowing for God's infinite mercy and grace. Now, when I talk about the availability of grace and mercy, I'm not talking about being in unrepentant sin and absuing God's mercy and grace. Rather, I am referring to the superficial acts of 'worshipping' God whilst neglecting His true purpose in creating us, which is to worship Him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24)!
As a Spirit-being, God is more concerned about the state of our Spirit-man as opposed to the physical acts that we carry out, which mean nothing to God. That's why He sent His only son to die on the cross and fulfill all law (tradition!). This leaves us free to focus on the spiritual acts of worshipping Him, including loving Him and loving our neighbours as He loves us. Saul, before he became Paul, was so immersed in the traditions of his fathers that it led him to persecute Christians who had revelation of Christ and had had the truth revealed to them. The traditions he zealously pursued blinded him from receiving this truth until Jesus appeared to him! How many of us are living in tradition/doctrine blindness, i.e. following what someone else is teaching us instead of pursuing the truth (a relationship with God) for ourselves? In Colossians 2:8, we are warned about the dangers of being 'spoilt' through 'vain deceit', following the tradition of men and not pursuing Christ.
Anyone called to Christ is required to walk in the Spirit, not in the traditions/doctrines of men. In times like these, the enemy will seek to cause confusion and put out those on fire for Christ by pushing these traditions and deceiving others to focus on them. This is probably one of the more dangerous tricks of the enemy because these traditions are passed down by those we look up to and learn from. It's a good thing God does not discriminate in passing down His word because anyone can receive the truth at any age. Paul received the truth after the 12 disciples who walked with Jesus and went on to do many many great works in the name of Jesus Christ! There are times I have to endure the disapproving looks of those who expect me to follow their traditions but I have to focus on what God has called me to do and stick to the path He has set out for me.