All too often, some of us (myself included) often jump quickly to conclusions over issues or matters we have little details about. We readily judge others and classify them based on what we think we know about them. This has often caused problems for ourselves and others. I remember someone here on Facebook who was almost delisting and blocking me from her friend list, because of my posts. I wouldn’t know what restrained her but she confessed on meeting me physically and relating with me outside Facebook that:
“Pastor, I never knew you were this amazing person o. I always see you as an enemy of Christianity and Islam at the same time, not knowing that you are this loving and compassionate. Thank God I didn’t block you o. Now, I understand better why you write the way you do! God will continue to bless you sir. Keep it up o.”
What exactly am I trying to discuss? Reputations and personalities are at risk when one engages in CONTROVERSIAL issues. Unfortunately, the Gospel Message IN ITS PURITY is NOT without controversies and debates. Several times, I have shown how debates helped shape the theology of the New Testament Church and the course of the Church historically. It was some men and women who stuck their necks out in defence of the truths which many of us today now tale for granted. We don’t appreciate these truths because we don’t know how high and heavy the price paid for these truths not to go into extinction.
Like the World Council of Churches in the late ’60s and early’70s maintained, most people abide by the slogan: “Doctrine divides, Love unites”. Thus, we excuse divisive doctrinal matters AS IRRELEVANT and keep screaming that what matters is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength. And, Love your neighbour as yourself.” This is our definition of the Christian faith. It doesn’t matter what we believe or practice and neither does it matter what others believe and practice as long as everyone is sincere and we love one another.
Unfortunately, we forget Jesus didn’t handle the doctrines of the Jewish religious leaders of his days this way. He broke almost all the traditions of the fathers. He spoke only with a woman, contrary to the Jewish rules of rabbinic etiquettes. Even His disciples were surprised (John 4:27), more so that the woman is a Samaritan (a hated stock!). Today, many used this passage to prove that women can evangelise (as the Samaritan woman did!) and that women should not be discouraged from learning gospel truths. What some do not know is that it violates EVERY thing Jewish in those days. A woman was considered deficient in knowledge to learn religious instructions YET Jesus did otherwise! Not only that, Jesus’ action was a breach of PROPRIETY for him, as a man AND MORE IMPORTANTLY A JEWISH TEACHER, to speak with a woman UNRELATED to him in public. Finally, she was a woman of east virtue, moving from one husband to another.
In the next chapter, Jesus told the man, who had been infirm for thirty eight years, to carry his bed. This action of carrying a bed was contrary to the Jewish tradition which interpreted the Sabbath prohibition against work to also forbid carrying ALL burdens (see Jeremiah 17:21-22 for a prophetic prohibition). The Jewish leaders told him (John 5:10) that IT IS NOT LAWFUL for him to take up his bed. When they discovered it was Jesus who “TAUGHT” him to violate the Sabbath, they SOUGHT TO KILL JESUS (v. 16, 18).
Time and space would not permit me to discuss how Jesus made women the first witnesses of His resurrection, CONTRARY to what the religious teachers maintained. It was believed then that a woman’s witness was considered invalid yet Jesus chose women as His first witness, though He NEVER made them apostles or leaders in His Church! Let’s leave that for another day!
On one Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples were plucking grain to eat and the Pharisees reported them to Jesus as doing WHAT IS NOT LAWFUL TO DO ON THE SABBATH (Matthew 12:2). No Old Testament law forbade it! It was simply based on oral traditions passed down from earlier generations! Jesus proved them wrong by appealing to the priests’ profaning of the Sabbath through working, David’s eating of bread meant only for the priests, and finally quoting Hosea 6:6 where we are told that God DESIRES mercy, not sacrifice!
ln Matthew 15:1, Jesus was accused of allowing His disciples break the TRADITION of the ELDERS, by not washing hands before eating? Such elders, we call FATHERS today: Daddy GO, GS, President, Bishop, Apostle, Special Superior Apostle Prophet, etc. You all know Jesus’ apt response: “Why DO YOU BREAK GOD’S COMMANDMENT FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR TRADITION?” (v. 3)
Read those words again!!!
God gave commandments which they were to keep but they disobey these laws simply because THEIR FATHERS/ELDERS/SUPERIORS gave them traditions to keep! They would rather untie their domestic animals to give them water on a Sabbath than see a fellow human being healed on the Sabbath. They have greater compassion for personal properties/possessions than for fellow humans, created in God’s image. I weep😢
However, is that not also the case with many of our “FATHERS” and “ELDERS”! They prefer upholding the church traditions and rules which obviously are NOT scripturally mandated to showing mercy to those under bondage. We ensure our church/branch dues and levies get to the headquarters complete but ignore the needy and/or sick brethren amongst us who need to be financially supported. We READILY contribute to buy cars, buses, lands, build houses, build schools/universities, buy and service the car, and even build campgrounds/gigantic auditoriums BUT WHEN IT COMES to Missionaries’ Funds, Widows’ Support, Orphans’ Welfare, we GRUDGINGLY do that! In some churches, they collect seeds to find the first category of WANTS and even judge your membership based on how much you contribute to support such wants but the second category of needs which ARE GOD’S COMMANDMENTS, we relegate to the background. People contribute thousands and even millions to help sponsor those universities, campgrounds, car/bus/jet purchase and servicing, but hardly give #500 to help the widows, orphans, missionaries, needy, and sick.
As a pastor, evidently sick people come to seek assistance in your church for operation costs or drugs. And, such people are NOT pur members, how do we treat them? We first make sure that we have collected all the Church’s tithes and offerings for that service before we now collect “alms” for them (Itore Aanu) and members troop out to drop #50, #20, #10, and even #5!
If the individual is a member, we don’t rally round him/her to get the necessary treatment. Selfishness and individualism has destroyed our sense of belonging as a church. Workers who are owed salaries are left to fend for themselves throughout the financial crisis but we don’t stop collecting offerings and even levying them when there are projects to undertake in the church.
For the sake of our Church’s Traditions, we BREAK the commandments of the God we claim to be serving!
It doesn’t stop at that! We let heresies and false teachings go unchallenged in our churches BECAUSE it is the ELDERS teaching it! This is something Jesus NEVER did but we think it’s the NOBLE thing to do. Why? The TRADITION OF THE ELDERS is that we cannot CORRECT our pastors. In fact, when they go wrong on doctrinal matters, we are to either accept it or leave the church BUT we are NEVER to question and EXPOSE their errors! Never see evil! If only this was what Jesus did to the TRADITIONS of the Elders, I would have honoured our choice to keep silent. However, the eternity of precious countless souls are at stake!!!
Thus, let us watch out for TRADITIONS in our Churches which VIOLATE God’s EXPRESS Commandments. “We would RATHER obey God than listen to men!” (Acts 4:19; 5:21).
Jesus was a TABLE SHAKER and a TABLE DESTROYER, when it comes to RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS. Jesus was a Revolutionary! We can’t afford to be different! And if you choose to be different, don’t call for the heads of those who refuse to be bound by the TRADITION OF THE ELDERS (GOs, GSs, Presidents, Bishops, Daddies and Mummies of the Church)