I’ve always been a reader. During Elementary, we would visit the school library on a weekly basis – the absolute highlight of my week. This was before the glasses and braces, the early stages of my nerdom, if you will. Reading allowed me to escape the mundanities of life; it allowed me to dream about things that only existed in the realms of my imagination. So when the Harry Potter books came out, I became an instant fan. I will admit I’ve only read the first few books and that was years ago in grade school, but I remember being deeply intrigued by one of Harry’s Christmas presents: the Cloak of Invisibility.
With this cloak, Harry could get around unseen, undetected. But it didn’t always protect him from being found out. Even in the magical realm of our imaginations, reality breaks through. Could this be true in our spiritual lives as well? Can the reality of our hopeless condition as sinners in need of a Savior breach the faux spiritual realm many of us don’t even realize we’re in?
Mark 7:1-13 is convicting, to say in the least. To give you a quick summary, the Pharisees and scribes questioned Jesus as to why his disciples ate with “defiled” or “unwashed” hands. According to Jewish tradition, a ceremonial, vigorous washing of the hands/feet and sometimes total washing of the whole body (called “ablution”) was necessary prior to eating or performing any religious offerings or acts. So when the disciples didn’t engage in the full ceremonial act of ablution, it was kind of a big deal.
The Greek word for “tradition” is paradosis. This word appears five times in the Gospel of Mark – all within these 13 verses. These words are just as applicable for us now as they were then.
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! | Mark 7:9
Wow. Talk about a shot right to the heart! These words immediately sent the gears of my brain into motion.
Do we do this? Do I do this? Am I choosing to reject the Word of God for the traditions handed down to me, as good and moral and humanly reasonable as they might be?
And then an even more worrisome question entered my thoughts: Have I so easily, so quickly accepted these traditions as doctrine without testing them against the Word of God?
Wow. “Convicted” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Friends, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve already slipped down that slippery slope. This is especially true for those of us who were born and raised in Christian families. We’ve gone to church all of our lives. We know the order of the Sunday service. We know that we should participate, and so we do. But do we know why?
Do we know why we come together weekly to remember the Lord? Or do we just do it because we’ve always done it? Do we know why we take part in Communion? Or do we just do it because our parents told us it was time to get baptized and participate in the Lord’s table?
My desire is not to write on these doctrinal issues, but rather to bring to light the possibility that we’ve mistaken tradition as our path to salvation. Friends, that path has already been paved by the beautiful, nail-pierced feet of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. Why are we trying to repave it with our thoughtless traditions?
Are we wearing the Cloak of Religion without realizing that Christianity is less a “religion” and more a “relationship?” Are we wearing the Cloak of Religion without realizing that Christianity is less about doing what we’ve always done because we’ve always done it, and more about a way of thinking, responding, behaving, rejoicing, suffering, loving and living? It’s an all-encompassing, daily life choice. Not a mindless obligation of a minimally invested heart.
Harry Potter could sneak past the monsters of his fictional world, but even then he was still found out. Even with the Cloak of Invisibility, he wasn’t immune to spells cast upon him or unnoticeable to every character he encountered.
We can wear the Cloak of Religion all we like. We can shuffle past the pews without anyone being the wiser. We can dip in and out of Bible studies and prayer meetings without a single person taking note. But one thing is certain: We cannot sneak our way into heaven; we cannot use the Cloak to shuffle past those pearly white gates. We can sure waltz our way into eternity, but heaven is impervious to the Cloak of Religion and the Father isn’t fooled by our outward appearance.
Perhaps we need to refocus and reassess. Are we merely following traditions? And are these traditions ones we should follow? Do they fall in line with the Word of God or do they directly oppose It?
The Cloak of Religion has to go. We need to get it off the market. We need to end its production. We need to plummet its sales – because believe me, it is SELLING. Satan has created a product that sells itself within the “Christian” community.
Friends, understand this:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. | Ephesians 6:12
Satan is strategically working to deceive us, but our God is greater! Victory is already ours! But are we willing to be uncloaked? Are we willing to leave the traditions of men and cling to the commandments of God?