It’s Time for Us to Listen to Jesus and Stop Believing the Traditions We Have Been Taught in Church
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:24-29
This is going to be hard to put into words, but I will try. We desperately need to stop listening to the scribes and start listening to Jesus. Even good pastors whose motives are to glorify God have in many, many cases embraced the teaching of the scribes and are passing those teachings down to their flocks, enslaving everyone. If the eye does not see clearly…. Who are the scribes today? They are theologians, authors, prominent pastors, church leaders in local churches, seminary teachers who teach the tradition of man as the Word of God. It took me years and years and years to get free of this scribal counterfeit stuff. I was trusting men instead of letting the Spirit of God in me teach me from His inerrant Word. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still believe there is a place for pastors and teachers in the church (see Ephesians 4:11ff). I am not saying that we should throw all books away besides the Bible and take off on our own as if we were the only ones who know anything at all and who have no need to learn from others. If that were the case, I would be wasting my time writing this very blog post! But what I am saying is that the unbiblical, false traditions of men have brought us into bondage. Traditions about
- marriage: it displays the covenant love of God; ‘redeeming it’ saves society; it’s more important than the individuals within it though we don’t actually say that bluntly; the believing wife must stay married no matter what to silently evangelise her unbelieving husband; all we need to do is get gender roles **right** (take your pick on that one!) as that will solve most of the problems
- divorce: only for a) adultery or b) desertion but not c) abuse or d) porn addiction . . . unless the abuse or porn addiction is REALLY BAD and the church gets to define *really bad*, not the victim. Or, never allowed period. Take your pick of traditions here, there’s a whole smorgasboard to choose from, these are only a few. In Jesus’ day they had the Pharisees, the Saducees, the Essenes, the Hilletes, the Shammaites; we have various camps today. There’s nothing new under the sun
- remarriage: not sinful if done after a) or b); sinful if done after c) or d); can be forgiven if confessed as a sin; always sin unless other spouse has died. Take your pick again — are you confused yet? Never mind, there are enough traditions out there to suit even the tastes of the most unusual person (except the abuse victim! her traditions have been mostly scrubbed and forgotten, and in keeping with the tradition of eliding the abuse victim we mention this only in parentheses . . . ).
- forgiveness: seeing it as uncoupled and disattached from repentance; mandating that Christians be Peacemakers (TM) at all times thus stifling all whistleblowers in the church
- church discipline: seeing Matthew 18:15-17 as the only Scripture for it — a passage to be cited on important occasions for the sake of appearances but rarely carried out fully
- God’s character and qualities: cherry-picking Scripture to emphasize God’s love, patience and grace and skim over His justice, anger and wrath against sin
- defining and ranking sin: viewing all relationship problems as mutual sins; sin-levelling; viewing all a person’s problems as evidence of their own sin, thus ignoring PTSD; defining ‘immorality’ as only flesh-on-flesh sexual sin; certain things are allowed in marriage which are not allowed otherwise —there’s a nice smorgasboard of traditions for the perverse to take their pick from, e.g. the Mark Driscoll tradition on marital sex, or the Domestic Discipline tradition on wife beating, and the mainstream mostly turn their eyes aside to this, failing to protect the sheep
- homeschooling and other child rearing traditions
(On 12 Feb 2015 we have added this for clarification in case anyone doesn’t read the whole comments thread below. We do not think that all homeschooling traditions within Christendom are bad or unbiblical. Not at all. We are merely saying that some homeschooling traditions in Christendom have prescribing things that are not spelled out and prescribed in the Bible. See my comment in this thread.)
- and many other traditions
Do you see what happened when Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, the closing of which is quoted above? The people were astonished. There was something radical, something refreshing and convicting and yet freeing in what Jesus taught. There was certainty in it. There was this “but I say to you” in contrast to “Well, as John Piper teaches in his book on marriage…”. I think that when abuse victims today start to hear Christ announcing “abuse is grounds for divorce. It is a violation of the marriage covenant. You are free to leave and I will bless you as you go,” they are experiencing something quite similar to what these crowds did at the Sermon on the Mount.
Today I was reminded of all this. An abuse survivor who had been additionally abused by many churches when she sought help and protection from them, talked to me. She said to me “I have been listening to your abuse sermons and I wanted to talk to you because you are so different from the other pastors and teachers I have listened to.” Now, I am NOT patting myself on the back here. I am simply saying that this is an example of what happens when God’s truth is proclaimed to people who have been so long oppressed by false traditions. It is only the grace of God that He showed me His truth and enabled me to preach it. One way He did this was to expose me to the attacks of abusers for many years and to keep me in small, isolated churches out of the mainstream of the scribes.
So, here is what I am calling all of you to do. Stop blindly accepting these false traditions being fed to you by blind guides, crawl out of the pit they have led you into, and realize that those feelings you have down deep inside — those little nagging, troubling thoughts you have been suppressing that have been making you unsettled with what you have been taught to believe — are the Spirit of Christ seeking to lead you into Christ’s truth. I can tell you from personal experience in this journey that the scribes will hate you for it and try to shut you up. You will sometimes slide backward a bit and tell yourself “Maybe I am really teaching some far out stuff here and getting Scripture all wrong.” But then you go back to Scripture and look at it again, closely, repeatedly, and you will conclude, “Nope. I know what this means. I know what God is saying here. And I am not going to be quiet about it.”
This post was chiefly written by Jeff Crippen, the bullet points section was elaborated by Barbara Roberts