God's Will or Human Tradition — Which?

Jesus Christ had performed an awesome miracle — He had opened the eyes of a beggar who was born blind (John 9:1-11). The healed person testified to the doubting and envious Pharisees about the extraordinary power of God, when he said: “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could no nothing” (John 9:32-33). The Pharisees did not agree. They resisted Christ, partially because He did not live and act according to their customs, traditions and religious concepts and interpretations. After all, Christ healed the blind man on the Sabbath! (verse 14). That was forbidden by human tradition! On one occasion, Christ healed a woman from her infirmity, and He did so, again, on the Sabbath. The ruler of the synagogue, held captive by his human interpretation of God’s Law, remarked, quite hypocritically, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day” (Luke 13:14).

Christ deliberately broke with such human tradition, as it was in contradiction with God’s Will and purpose. He told His accuser: “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” (Luke 13:15-16).

Christ was never afraid to break with human traditions, in order to uphold the Will of God. He chided the Pharisees for accusing His disciples of eating bread with ritually or ceremonially unwashed hands (Mark 7:2-6). Christ did not teach His disciples to follow those ceremonies, derived from human traditions, as they did not constitute TRUE worship of God. On another occasion, He spoke publicly with a woman, although this was not accepted by human tradition (compare John 4:27). Christ also defended His disciples for not fasting while He was with them (Matthew 9:14-15), although religious Jews fasted twice a week (compare Luke 18:12). He lived a healthy life in accordance with God’s Law, eating and drinking, while many thought that He should live like an ascetic (Matthew 11:19). He did not reject or refuse to accept, as worshippers, prostitutes who approached Him (Luke 7:36-50), and He ate with tax collectors and “sinners” (Matthew 9:10-13). He thereby clearly and purposefully violated human traditions and customs, which were AGAINST God’s perfect Will. He defended His disciples who plucked grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). And, of course, Christ made it a point to heal people on the Sabbath, showing thereby that the Sabbath is to be kept as a day of rest and freedom from suffering and pain.

Returning to the healing of the man who was born blind, the Pharisees tried to discredit Christ. Some implied that He was not of God, but of Satan, since He did not keep the Sabbath in accordance with human tradition, while others suggested that the man had never been blind, to begin with. So they questioned the parents about the beggar. They confirmed their son’s blindness from birth, but were afraid to associate any further with Christ, “because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:22). There were others who also refused to openly confess Christ, for fear that they might be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42), “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

How are we doing? Are we sometimes afraid to stand up for Christ, so that we can keep our own traditions and customs — the traditions of the society in which we live — so that we don’t have to “offend” people? Is it more important to us to be accepted by people, rather than by God? Do WE sometimes love the praise of men more than the praise of God? Paul testified: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16). He encouraged Timothy not to “be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8). Did not Christ warn all of us that He will be ashamed of us, if we are ashamed of Him and His words (Mark 8:38)?

Granted, we are to render “customs to whom customs” are due (Romans 13:7), but only, if this does not contradict the letter AND the Spirit of God’s Law. We must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29), and we must do everything “to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

In many cases, it may be obvious what to do, and what not to do. But it may not be always that clear, at first sight. It is important, however, that we learn to make right decisions in every circumstance (compare Hebrews 5:14). Christ told us that we worship Him in vain, if we keep as doctrines the commandments of men — human traditions — while doing away with the commandments of God (compare Matthew 15:3, 6, 9; Mark 7:6-13).

Christ lived a perfect life, and we are to follow His example (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). When we are confronted with situations, as to whether or not to follow human traditions and customs, let us ask the question, “What would Christ have done?” If we let Christ live His life in us today, and if we follow His lead, we won’t go wrong.

©2024 Church of the Eternal God