I have an extensive resume of traditions. I grew up in the Baptist church for one thing, the kind where Sunday School was sacred and a few women in the choir wore hats. I also graduated from Texas A&M University, where if you do something twice it becomes a tradition. Growing up we’d always do 4th of July at the lake; we’d go snow skiing around Spring Break; and on my birthday I got to pick what was for dinner.
Traditions have tremendous power over us. Think about it: what we get most defensive about usually isn’t even in the Bible, it’s our opinion. In fact, a lot of the things we do in church are dependent simply on tradition (like an 11 a.m. worship service, Sunday School, hymns, getting dressed up, even the cross as a symbol).
But our traditions (aka, our opinions) are not hills to die on but springs to stretch. This is where judgment comes in. And immediately, this is where a lot of people will say, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” So thanks for the quote, but let’s look at this for a second:
James chapter 4 deals with judging in a helpful way. Here’s a summary from my Precept notes when I studied this last year:
So the Greek word krino, which is “judge,” one of the first meanings is “to have an opinion.” So the things that we can judge are things that we can have an opinion on. Meaning they’re not implicit in Scripture. God is the Judge of the things that are in Scripture and we are judged by that standard. But other things like being a vegetarian or not, that’s not biblical so we can have an opinion on that, we can judge that…But the things that are in the Bible, things that are in the inspired Word of God…those are things we cannot judge.”
We judge opinions. We don’t judge doctrine. And in Luke 6.37 when Jesus says “Do not judge and you will not be judged,” he follows it in the same breath with “Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” I think we can apply this to traditions. According to James (see above), we can pass judgment on things that are not doctrine, but we do not condemn those who have different opinions about our opinions.
- If you home school, don’t condemn public school.
- If you drink water, don’t condemn those that drink wine.
- If you wear makeup, don’t condemn people with tattoos.
- If you worship on Sunday morning, don’t condemn those that worship on Saturday night.