Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
2 Thessalonians 2:15
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
I am a traditional girl. I was raised in a small farming community, and there were some traditions that my grandmother instilled in me that will never die. In 2010, however, tradition is sometimes deemed a bad thing.
For instance, this morning in church, I was embarrassed to notice a couple of women who came to church as scantily clad as possible. They wore spaghetti strapped tops with low-cut necks. They were very busty women, to put it mildly.
I stood about eight feet away from these women. I noticed them and instantly I thought, oh my goodness…if I am embarrassed, I know some of the men are also! (Praise the Lord my husband and my son were not nearby.)
My problem is that I remember a time when those women would have been embarrassed to come to church dressed like that. I remember a time when the church “mothers” would pull a young woman to the side and tell her about the way she was dressed. As a matter of fact, my grandmother would not allow her daughters or granddaughters to wear open-toe shoes to church. She said, “That preacher is already struggling enough without having you sit on the front pew with your red-painted toes.” I thought of my dear grandmother as I looked at the young lady sitting next to me on the front row in church today with a short dress on, and her toes painted red.
So what is my point? My point is this: we have done such a great job at pointing out some of the “bad” traditions until we now think that they are all bad, and we have dismissed some of the greatest traditions simply because they are traditional! No longer do pastors feel the need to wear a shirt and tie in the pulpit. It is ok now to come to church in shorts, flip-flops, sandals, jeans, sweats, or whatever. Do I think that dressing this way makes a man less of a pastor? No I do not. Do I think it makes him less of a Christian? I do not. I do, however, believe that it sends a message to the congregation that the man of God who stands before the audience to proclaim the Word of God is serious about what he is doing and saying. I think it lets the people of God know that he does not take the Word of God lightly. He does not treat it the same way that he would treat a trip to the beach, or an afternoon in the park. I know there are some awesome Bible teachers who do not wear shirts and ties to church, but I do think that it is a bit more appropriate than some of the garbage that I see people wearing nowadays.
I have digressed tremendously.
In the passages of scripture that I mentioned at the beginning of my monologue, I see two opposing views on traditions, one good and one bad. In Matthew 15, we have a situation where the Pharisees are using traditions to override God’s commandments. That is never good. It is never ok not to do what God says in order to fulfill a long-standing tradition. Not only am I not encouraging that, but I discourage it strongly. God’s commands are always the final authority, the standard by which we all should judge ourselves. Never would I take the teaching of my grandmother, should it have been erroneous, and elevate it above the teachings that God left for us in His Word. My grandmother would not have encouaged that either.
In 2 Thessalonians, however, Paul shows us that there are some tradtions that come from God and we are to hold fast to them. Now, am I saying that the tradition of dressing a certain way when we go to church comes from Paul or 2 Thessalonians or even God Himself? I am not. I do believe, however, that the tradition of having a standard of dress was born in the hearts of men and women who love and want to honor Jesus with their lives and bodies. Paul did say to believers in 1 Timothy 2:9 “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety” and that says to me that something needs to give when we talk about appropriate church attire. Ladies, come on! If it is a man that you are trying to attract, the kind of man who would be attracted to your over-exposed body is not the kind of man that you want. If that is the kind of man that you are looking for, then church should not be the place where you go to find him. (Although I am sure that you could find that kind of man in church.)
My desire is for the church to be the church. I desire to see the church go back to being the place where the standard is set. I am old enough to remember a time when the sinners who never went to church showed respect for the elderly and for the people of God. I remember a time when my grandmother and I could walk the downtown streets of my hometown and if there were a man smoking a cigarette on the street, he would put his cigarette out in my grandmother’s presence. I remember a time when drunks would hide their beer or wine when they saw the preacher coming. I remember a time that one’s sin would be so embarrassing that he or she would do their best to hide it.
That is no longer the case. Traditionally, when a young lady became pregnant out of wedlock, she went into the house, and that is where she stayed until the baby was born. No one threw a baby shower for her to celebrate the result of her sin. As a matter of fact, she was so embarrassed about what she had done that she made herself as invisible as possible, at least until after the baby was born. Should her baby have been condemned because of the way that he or she was conceived? Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I am thinking of one of the greatest Bible teachers in the world who was born to a single mother. Had he been condemned, the gospel may not have reached much of the world where he has taken it.
Traditionally, stores that sold magazines with nude photos in them covered the magazines with brown paper bags so that the cover could not be seen by all the customers. Now, not only can you walk right into the grocery store and buy something that is nearly x-rated, but you can also access that filth on the internet. Away with tradition.
I will never move away from the traditions that I hold dear. I still, to this day, will not wear open-toe shoes to church. That is something that my grandmother taught me and it just will not go away. I will not wear sleeveless dresses and tops to church. My grandmother would not allow that either. I heard a man say once that one of the things that really turned him “on” about a woman is her arms. So I have taken responsibility not to purposely attract any man with any part of my body, including my arms.
As I was sitting in front of my dresser doing my hair, I looked at my neckline and asked the Lord if it was too low. Anyone who knows me knows that I never wear low necklines. But I just wanted to make sure that I am actually following the standard that I think everyone else should follow. If I am going to judge others, then I too should be judged by the same standard. I know right now you are quoting Matthew 7:1. Quote it all you like, the Word gives me the right to judge the actions of other believers in the same chapter, if you read down to verses 16-20.
So, while I know that we no longer live under the law, but now we live under the grace of God, which is given to us freely through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I also know that if we live by God’s Word to the letter of the law, the world would be a better place. If we worshipped no other gods, honored our parents, did not lie, steal, kill, envy, commit adultery and all that other stuff, life would be so much better. And if we honored the traditions established by our forefathers not only in this country (because it was founded on Christian principles whether we want to believe that or not), but also our forefathers in the faith, then this country and this world would be a much better place to live in.
But then, maybe that is part of God’s plan. Maybe He doesn’t want us to get too comfortable because we are not going to be here much longer. You think?