The Condition and Tradition of Your Heart

What tradition has had the most influence in forming the person that you are now? Think about your family, racial, ethnic or tribal traditions. Consider your civic or social club traditions. Remember the scientific or sporting traditions you have engaged in. Finally, center on the influence of your religious and spiritual traditions as a child, teen and adult. Our religious traditions should bind us closer to God and each other in both thought and action when we participate in them. We have come to define ourselves by the spiritual traditions we engage in because they help us to form, in large part, our sense of identity as believers in God and a positive self-image.

We cling to our spiritual traditions so closely that we can't imagine not going through them in our places of worship whether they have begun early in our lives or we have picked them up as adults. Our Bible readings in Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 related a debate Jesus had with the leaders in the synagogue, called Pharisees, about his disciples not observing the cleansing ritual of washing their hands before they ate

That tradition, and many others, of the Jewish people in Jesus' day had become an essential a part of their daily lives because they were a way to set themselves apart as God's chosen people from the tribes and nations around them. But over time those traditions were treated as if they were equal in value as the 10 Commandments were in the eyes of the Jewish leaders and the Jewish people in some cases.

Jesus wanted those who participated in ritual traditions to stop making their traditions overly important. Jesus did not want to do away with the traditions but rather that the leaders and people use them to create and maintain a closer relationship with God and not as method of exclusion and disrespect for non-participants. And never to misuse them for selfish gain.

In what way(s) do our religious traditions become tools of exclusion and disrespect for non-participants who want a relationship with God? In what ways are our spiritual traditions pathways to a closer relationship with God?

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