Sometimes I wish I wasn’t brought up in church. Although I love the community of believers that church provides, I feel that the true power of the church is sometimes overshadowed by antiquated traditions and unexplained rituals.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the richness of traditions and culture that have birthed me and my story and I hold on to them as part of who I am. But I believe there is a line between holding on to tradition like one would hold on to a chain to maintain access to one’s history and holding on to tradition as one holds on to a barricade or bar in an effort to keep out “them” to protect “us”.
The “them” that enters our churches are people who don’t know all of the scriptures or clothing or typical church responses or communication aka unchurched people. They don’t dress like us. Or talk like us. They may not even look like us. We become afraid of being relational at times because of fear that we will lose our identities and our church specific culture. We sometimes hold on to our traditions even tighter because we are afraid of what our own stories may look like without them. We are afraid to discuss our faults, our downfalls, our lackluster decisions but adhering to a particular religious standard makes us feel that we are righteous and therefore better than someone else.
And sometimes as Christians who have been part of a church community from birth or for as long as they can remember, we make those people feel out of place or as if they don’t belong. We say hello and we smile real big but how many of us have outrightly judged someone based on our assumption of how ignorant a person is if they don’t say the right thing? Have we taken the time to correct them out of love or out of our own rituals? How many of people reading this have experience “church hurt”? 👀
While reading Colossians 2 on the train, this verse stuck out to me – “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.”(Colossians 2:23 NKJV) What are the things that Paul is writing to the church of Colosse about? He’s writing about human regulations and rituals imposed by the religious on our freedom. If our freedom comes from Christ, then we do not have to uphold manmade rules or unexplained rituals in an effort to gain more salvation. Christ in us is the greatest and one of the most powerful images to our walk in God’s freedom. That alone should be the primary focus of us getting together as a community – we want to mirror Christ. Do our churches mirror that idea or are we too busy in someone else’s mirror to notice?
I’m not exempt from this thinking. I used to be like this too. I would hide behind my white on First Sunday and my church jargon to get away from understanding for myself the reasons behind why my faith is expressed in my congregation through these traditions. Religious traditions coupled with ignorance can create false piety. And that is why Paul calls it out. He writes, ““In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” (Colossians 3:11 NLT)
Christ is all that matters! So stop trying to push your religion on me and instead push Christ on me – His love for me, His sacrifice for me, His desire for me. Let’s not forget to tell people about the effects of sin but also the promise of new life in Christ. And that doesn’t come from a ritualistic sacrifice to God without heart service (Psalms 51:16-17).