Family traditions have always been an integral part of my life. We celebrate holidays and have family reunions, like many other families, but we have other traditions that fill our daily lives.
Like in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, traditions affect our daily lives. As Tevye says, “Because of our traditions everybody knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”
Traditions are like train tracks going across the desert. The engine pulls the other cars along the track to their destination. One car follows another until a car is pulled from the train and connected to another engine at the station.
In real life, one car doesn’t jump the track and start off on its own across the desert making a new route but, if it did, it is easy to see the danger in making that choice. The car would jump off the track and start laying its own steel rails to another destination.
The territory is uncharted and the destination and distance unknown. Who knows how long it would take to get there or if it ever would? Who knows what dangers lay ahead?
If it was only one rebellious car that jumped the track, it wouldn’t be so bad, but every car behind the rebellious car is bound to follow after. One cannot break from tradition without taking someone with them. Sometimes it’s an entire generation.
Back in the ’60s, the train track of the nation had thousands of cars jump the track. Teenagers broke from traditional Christian values that had been the American way of life for generations.
The hippie movement, with the glitter of free love and anti-establishment, sent thousands of young people down a track that has proved a path of destruction for them and their children. The drugs, the immorality, the violence and the disregard for sacred things have snowballed into a society of godless people.
Children are growing up in drug-infested and disease-infested homes. Divorce is rampant, and for many, riots and violence are a viable means of solving problems.
Of course, there were those cars that didn’t jump the track. They stayed with tradition and were blessed with the same prosperity as their forebears.
Their homes are stable with a father and a mother caring for their children. They go to church each Sunday and worship a God who has all the answers. They care about family values and realize that any break with God’s tradition is disaster.
God set up His train track when He created the earth. He knew what would bring the greatest happiness to His children. He made a plan and gave it to His children in the form of laws and commandments. Adam was taught the rules, and he taught them to his children.
Not all of Adam’s children obeyed the rules. They jumped the track and did their own things. Gradually their philosophies infiltrated and took over. Finally there were so many children who were not following the rules, God had to erase the earth with a flood, in Noah’s time, and start all over again.
Noah and his family were the only survivors. Noah had the rules and he taught them to his children by tradition. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob followed the rules. Jacob’s sons created their own tracks and sold Joseph into Egypt.
During a famine, Jacob’s (Israel) children came to Egypt. There they were taught in the ways of the Lord – but many jumped track and adopted the traditions of the Egyptians.
The Lord brought the children of Israel back on track with Moses – but because they would not abandon the ways of the Egyptians in worshiping the golden calf, the Lord allowed them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until a new generation, who had been taught in the ways of the Lord, would accept and follow the track to happiness.
Joshua led those wonderful valiant young men to victory at the walls of Jericho. Did those men remain valiant? Most of them, but the next generation jumped the track. Every time a generation jumped the track, there was war and destruction. Kings came and went. Some were good; some were bad.
The pattern is clear in scripture. Those who follow the Lord’s traditions are blessed and prospered. Those who create their own track are plagued with the pestilence of war, disease and destruction.
What is God’s plan of happiness? A lawyer unwittingly asked Jesus a question and got a concise summary of the entire plan. (Matthew 22:36-40)
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The answer was simple yet difficult to live. The Lord knew that everyone would not follow His plan, to “love the Lord” first and “love neighbors” selflessly second.
He gave Moses the Ten Commandments as a schoolmaster to help His children come to a point where they could live the higher law of Christ.
The Ten Commandments are still as relevant as they came from the finger of the Lord on Mount Sinai. Don’t worship other gods. Don’t worship idols. Don’t profane God’s name. Keep the Sabbath holy. Honor your father and mother. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t covet.
The first five commandments relate to how we are to treat God and our ancestors. If we respect and love God above all else, we keep our priorities in the right place.
If we love the Lord, it is difficult to mistreat His children or His creations. When we honor our parents we are not just honoring the first generation; we are honoring the traditions of our righteous ancestors. If we honor those time-worn traditions, we will live long upon the land which the Lord has given us.
If we abandon them, we will reap the same consequences as the children of Israel and the neighbors of Noah.
The next five commandments tell us how we should treat our neighbors. Murder is the worst sin and it moves down from there. Christ’s law is much stricter: If you are never angry with your brother, you will never have to worry about being a murderer.
Adultery comes next. Christ’s law is to avoid lusting after someone. If you are free from lust, adultery never happens. Why is adultery such a serious sin? If you commit adultery you mess with another’s happiness and often bring children into an unwed family. No big deal?
Our society looks at children born out of wedlock as just another child. Yes, just another child whose train car has derailed in the desert with no place to go. Just another child who thinks it normal to grow up in a home where either the mother or the father is absent.
Just another child who will never know what it means to be encircled in the arms of a traditional family. No problem! A family is just another group of animals living together. Yes, just like any other animal on the earth. Herds have no need for a family. They just roam and wander, gathering, eating and drinking where they can meet their needs.
The sire can have children with his daughters and the brothers have children with their sisters. It makes no difference because we are just one big happy family. Right?
That doesn’t sound like what God intended for His children. He wanted civilizations with educated, intelligent, compassionate people who would care for their offspring as He cared for Adam and Eve. He wanted them to have the glory of the Garden of Eden.
He wanted them to have peace and contentment in living in His eternal family. He wanted His eternal train of tradition to lead back into his presence, not off into the desert.
Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t covet. These are commandments given to teach us to govern ourselves against contention and strife. If we don’t take things that belong to another person, we are avoiding confrontation. We are better if we are truly honest and come to a point where we are glad for our brother’s success and have no desire to take what he has, but the law of Christ was stricter.
If your brother wants your coat, give him your cloak also. Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Love your enemies. If everyone followed the Law of Christ, what a Godly people we would be! What a glorious society!
Today we are living in a time, like the ’60s, when people are cutting new paths and laying steel in the desert to make their own tracks. Their cars are jumping off the proven path to wander in strange places, leading a new generation of God’s children into oblivion.
Where will it end? Will history come full circle? Will we become like the children of Israel, made to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, or will we be knocking on the doors of Noah’s ark wishing we had made different choices? I stand with Joshua: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15).