Or is it just fantasy?

Photo by Okamatsu Fujikawa

I am noticing an unsettling trend within my tribe. There is a lot of “spiritualization” happening at the expense of doing what is right. This is something that has happened at many times throughout human history. Jesus even dealt with this when he was here.

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Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
 but their heart is far from me;
 in vain do they worship me,
 teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:1–13 ,ESV)

This interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees should challenge us as followers of Jesus. Particularly, those of us who have been Christians for a long time. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were more concerned about their man-made traditions than following closely to what the Scriptures had actually said.

The Scriptures call for children to honor their parents. Jesus makes the argument that part of honoring them is to care for them in their old age. But, the tradition had been set up that if you said that the money for them was now “God’s money” then you could be released from caring for them.

Jesus calls them on it.

Our traditions can not trump our commitment to the Scriptures.

The Pharisees spiritualized the tradition by sticking God’s name on it and tried to make it look like an act of worship. It wasn’t, it was simply an evasion tactic to keep more money.

What are the traditions that we adhere to at the expense of the Scriptures? I think in our day and age it is largely our political commitments. We place our allegiance to a party or a candidate over our allegiance to the Scriptures. We ignore or white wash the aspects of the platform that deny the Scriptures in our commitment to the tradition.

This reality cuts across the whole political spectrum.

There will never be a political party or candidate that perfectly upholds what we see in Scripture. This means that we must speak truth to their failings. It means that we cannot align ourselves with power from either side. Following Jesus demands an allegiance to him and not to a flag or a president or a party.

Derek Webb, one of my favorite artists says it well in his song, A King and A Kingdom:

Is This The Real Life? was originally published in The Rev on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.