Customs & Traditions … Are they Good or Bad? … Necessary or Nonsense?
I think first we need to understand WHAT we mean by “customs” & “traditions”. Here are some definitions I ran across which may give us some understanding:
CUSTOM: “A traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place, or time.”
TRADITION: “A long-established custom or belief that has been passed on in this way.”
First I would have to say that customs & traditions are not only important in our life but necessary as they give us some foundation, routine and stability. Jesus himself followed “customs” in his life and here are three examples: (1) Luke 2:42: “When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.” (2) Luke 4:16: “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” AND (3) Luke 22:39: “He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him.”
NOW THE SECOND QUESTION – Are customs & traditions GOOD…or BAD? And … Who defines whether they are good or bad? It all depends. Some customs & traditions are good and some are bad. Typically it is the society who defines what is good or bad for “their” society … what may appear to be good in one culture or society may be looked upon as bad in a different culture or society.
We all have customs or traditions we practice all the way from personal or family activities … to our holiday practices … to our personal religious activities, like how we pray … how we worship … and what we do in our church services. I think the most important thing of all is that we need to ask ourselves – what is the “value”, “meaning”, “purpose” or “truth” behind the custom or tradition we practice? Do we understand what we do, why we do it and what it represents?
You are probably familiar with the story of the Easter Ham … and the “tradition” which surrounds that story:
As a little girl watches her mom prepare the Easter ham, she wonders why her mother cuts off both ends of the ham before putting it in the pot. So, she asks why, and her mom realizes that she doesn’t know. That’s the way her mother prepared the Easter ham.
So they call grandmother and pose the question about cutting off the ends of the Easter ham. Grandmother admits to not knowing either. She just prepared the ham the way her mom did it.
Their next call is to great-grandmother. When they ask her about her method of preparing the Easter ham, she laughs. Then she says, “It was the only way I could get the Easter ham to fit the small pot I had!” — http://marriage.about.com/od/customstraditions/qt/traditionstory.htm
Many times we are quick to criticize the customs or traditions of other churches or people which differ from us because … they are different … and therefore … must be wrong.
Before we criticize others we need to ask ourselves what is “beneath” their custom or tradition? Does it represent something very real … very personal … something of value or truth? AND … we need to ask ourselves do we fully understand our own customs and traditions … what they mean … their purpose … their Value?
As a charismatic Christian I have attended churches where we raise our hands (palms up) during worship or prayer … do we understand that custom or tradition and its meaning behind it? … or do we “just do it”? It is easy to criticize other religious practices which differ from ours because we don’t understand their purpose or meaning. Before we become critical … we need to look at our own customs & traditions and ask if we really know why we do what we do?
I think if there is anything we can take away from this discussion of customs and traditions I think it is this:
- Take a careful look at the things we do in life … the customs and traditions … DON’T quickly disregard them … but understand the value and meaning behind them … so you can better appreciate why you carry them out.
- AND be slow to condemn others customs or traditions just because they are different or because we don’t understand what they mean.
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