Monday, March 30, 2015

Grace or Tradition; Which Will We Choose?

4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.  -Mark 3:4-6

Jesus was vehemently criticized for His steadfast commitment to place grace over the letter of the law.  Let me explain this further.  Jesus was always more concerned with helping people and addressing their needs than upholding religious tradition.  The Pharisees, which were Jesus harshest critics, were so focused on keeping their traditions that they lost sight of the suffering that was all around them.  Jesus told them their attitudes were hypocritical because they were ignoring the weightier matters of the law such as grace, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23).  Most Christians will say they we are not like this at all.  But is this truly the case?  

What would happen in most churches if the people came in one Sunday morning and the pulpit furniture had been rearranged?  For countless congregations, such an action would result in a church split.  The outcry would be intense.  How dare someone move the pulpit furniture!  I once said in a sermon that many pastors could split their congregations with this one simple, seemingly insignificant action; remove the pulpit.  I then joked that when the ancient Israelites marched into battle they carried the Ark of the Covenant, not a church pulpit.  And this is only one example.  Should we tamper with anything that touches on tradition, such as the order of worship, where we place the announcements or offering, whether or not the pastor wears a suit and tie, and numerous other minor details, the resulting outrage would leave the congregation broken and fractured.  Perhaps we are more like the Pharisees than we think we are.

On the other hand, if you are reading this and you realize that such small details are not worth fighting over and there are greater and more important issues to concern ourselves with, such as worshipping God in Spirit and truth, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, helping the needy, and shining Jesus’ light to a dark and hurting world, rejoice; you are, as Jesus said, not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34).

How do we overcome Pharisaical attitudes in the church today?  I welcome your thoughts on the subject.  As always, I also welcome the opportunity to pray for you about whatever you are facing.  Please feel free to comment.  (Don’t forget, since my comments section is a new feature, all comments are moderated and will appear soon after you post them.)

God bless you today.


  1. Good work dad! -seth

  2. Thanks son! I appreciate your support and I hope you have a blessed day. Stand firm in the faith, trust God, and He will direct your path (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

  3. The pastor of the church where I went Sunday (our daughter Laura Beth's church in O'Fallon, IL. was talking about the same thing. Just imagine Jesus comes around in the flesh today. But he bypasses all of us. I mean we are all doing some really nice things for the Kingdom, right? We are doing our best to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, etc. And we're really working hard on loving each other. But Jesus walks right by us and goes and hangs out with thugs. I mean complete THUGS! The bad kind! It's a little easier to understand the Pharisees and even identify with them when you think about them like this. Jesus was so radical! And he went about radically loving the most unlovable of us. Even....dare I say it?.....those that think and live differently than we do. Nice to read your musings, Dan! -Janice Codispoti

    1. Thank Janice for your thoughts on this - very insightful and thought provoking. I especially appreciate your statement about Jesus, "And he went about radically loving the most unlovable of us." What a wonderful challenge to step out of our comfort zones and reach out to those who we might otherwise have avoided.

      Thanks again for sharing and God bless you.