But We’ve Always Done It that Way
I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. Galatians 1:14
I know I’m getting older. The signs are everywhere. Nowhere was it more obvious to me though, when, at a stop sign the other day, I glanced over to see a kid behind the wheel of his car, wearing his baseball cap on in a manner that I found infuriating. It was just a baseball cap, but I was offended by how stupid it looked sitting on his head in that position. Immediately, I conjured up some derogatory judgments about his character. That looks so dumb. He must be a thug and a bully. Why can’t those kids just wear hats normally, like I did when I was a teenager. It actually took me a few seconds before I realized how ridiculous I was being. He was just a kid, wearing his hat backwards, and there I was, being a judgmental old fool.
Maybe it hasn’t involved baseball hats, but many of us have done this. We like the way we’ve always done things and when others do them differently, they aren’t innovating, they’re offending us by breaking tradition. We see baggy pants and we don’t like them, so we judge. Why can’t they pull their pants up? We see people doing things differently in church and we get offended. We’ve never done it that way before. We cling to tradition as though it’s a moral anchor that others are trying to uproot.
In today’s passage, Paul reflected upon his former life, before he knew Christ. He lamented about how he zealously followed tradition for tradition’s sake. He wanted to maintain the old ways at all costs, persecuting the followers of Jesus – until he met Jesus himself. Then, he was transformed and realized that the old life must go, that the new life may come. Tradition alone is not morality.
To be clear, there are good things in our past, to which we must cling. God’s word isn’t fluid, and we should hang on to that which we believe to be right. There are a lot of traditions though that we simply prefer because that’s the way we’ve always done them. Then, when someone defies our tradition, we feel like they’re defying God, when actually, they’re simply defying our preference.
I very much doubt that Jesus would have been judgmental of that kid in the backwards baseball hat at the stop sign. Neither then, should I be.