I despise religious traditions. Not all of them, but most of them. I despise them because most of them have been so mindlessly repeated year after year that they no longer have any real meaning to the people practicing them. They become a routine, like having morning coffee or checking email. Just something we do because… well, that’s what we always do.
Often times the carrying out of a tradition becomes the thing that we associate with making us right with God. Even though the bible very clearly says it’s not through acts that we receive God’s love, we still often think that participating in some tradition is going to somehow win us a ticket to heaven.
As one of my Catholic friends explained to me, many religious traditions were designed to help us remember something about our relationship with God. That’s certainly a good thing. However, I wonder what life would be like if you only did other things once a year, or once a month, or even once a week. I’m a drummer. How good of a drummer would I be if I only played on Christmas and Easter? I also like to ride motorcycles, but how safely and proficiently could I ride if I only rode during the month of March? I’d be crappy at both those things. What about my marriage? What if I only talked to my wife for one hour on Sundays? How long would I stay married?
A relationship with God is something that needs constant attention. CONSTANT. I know from personal experience, if I go even two days without thinking about God and reading his word, I’m already sliding into bad habits, fostering sinful thoughts, and planning how to achieve selfish desires. Heck, I think I had some of those things happen in the space between finishing writing the last paragraph and starting this one.
My point is that you can say “I’m going give up such and such for Lent”. But big deal? What does that mean? Do you think God cares that you gave up Pepsi for Lent? Where’s the life change in that? No, I suggest we try a different approach. Let’s keep it simple and just try just doing what Jesus said to do. Let’s give up sin, every single day, from now on.
Now that would be meaningful. That would be life changing.