Thursday, July 3, 2008

Imitating Paul.

1 Cor. 11:1-3 (ESV)
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. [2] Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Today many people have a problem with the whole idea of saints. Now I don’t believe any of them were holier than anyone else, or that they are able to impart grace to us. Only Christ can do that. But a culture needs its heroes. Christianity is its own culture, distinct from the world’s culture. We call our heroes saints. Paul was one such hero. Heroes serve to inspire a people, with the values of a culture. So boys are inspired to serve their country when they watch a Rambo movie. So Christians are inspired by Paul to maintain the traditions even as they were delivered to Corinth. Paul was not one to buck with traditions needlessly.
Tradition, though, today has bad connotations. People of our culture, and it seems especially the church, despise tradition. I agree that “because we have always done it that way,” is a bad, bad answer to the question of why we do things. Bad traditions can pop up even in the church. They must be scrutinized. The Reformation was a time when many bad traditions concerning saints, for instance, were thrown out. No need to go around kissing toe nails. But these traditions were thrown out that good traditions might be highlighted, such as communion held publicly every Sunday, and on other holy days, of speaking the words of institution loudly and clearly in the vernacular, of giving sermons, and absolving sins. Traditions teach. They can teach bad things, and they can teach good things. Traditions centered on the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, and serve to bring people back to the gospel, are good traditions.
You don’t ever get rid of traditions; you replace them with new ones. So I caution that we strive to find out “why we’ve always done it that way”, before we replace it with a new tradition that may be worse. May be then we will find inspiration from the saints that have gone before us.

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