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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

20 July 2012

A Family Tradition

or I’m Sure Jesus Done It This Way

Family Tradition
Hank Williams, Jr. had a huge hit in 1979 with the song Family Tradition. In it, he defended his hard-living, hard-drinking lifestyle against country music purists who wondered why he didn’t act more like they did. His response was that his behavior was just a “family tradition,” a statement that has some merit, since Hank, Sr. also frequently was at odds with the status quo of his day.

The song can be expanded beyond the Williams family — rebellious, illegal, wrong-headed, and self-destructive behavior is also a family tradition of Adam and Eve’s entire family tree. It may be expressed in different ways, subtly by some and brazenly by others, but no one conceived and born of human parents is exempt from sinful attempts to uphold the initial rebellion of our first parents in Creation’s early days.

It’s a family tradition to think of ourselves too highly and to look to gain unfair advantage over others. Conversely, it’s also a family tradition to despair of ourselves, to think that we are utterly without worth and having no place in the world. Self-control is practiced most frequently when it involves self-interest.

This doesn’t mean that drinking, dancing, or enjoying ourselves are wrong in and of themselves. Neither are walking, talking, or a host of other activities. But sinful intent — often followed by sinful excess — can turn any good gift of God into a mockery and make any blessing into a curse.

Booze and Drugs
The entire tradition of the family of man, then, is a giant rebellion against God, usually accompanied by the misuse of His good gifts and normally at the expense of our brothers and sisters. Like the song says, some people “drink” (to excess) or “roll smoke” (even though marijuana is illegal for most people in most parts of the country). However, even if we abstain from these, all of us find ways to “live out the songs” that we write for ourselves by envisioning a sinful narrative for our lives and then acting it out.

Thank God that He has another “family tradition” — that of showing grace and mercy to undeserving, rebellious sinners for the sake of His holy and perfect Son Jesus. In the divine Family, the Son perfectly follows the Father’s lead. He accepted the burden of flesh carried by Adam’s family but lived His life according to His Father’s will.

Jesus broke our human tradition of breaking God’s commandments. He enjoyed the gifts of Creation in moderation, treated others with kindness, acceptance, and forgiveness, and never rebelled, no matter what the Father asked Him to do. Even taking our sins upon Himself, suffering the consequences for His human family’s rebellion, and dying on the cross He did willingly and “for the joy that was set before him. (Hebrews 12:2)”

Jesus' Crucifixion
In faith, we are adopted out of our sinful family and made God’s children through Holy Baptism. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God moves us to embrace new traditions of faith toward Him and sincere, active, fervent love for our brothers and sisters. As we practice living and loving as Christ lived and loves, these new traditions become ever more deeply ingrained and we may find it increasingly easy to love our neighbor — even our enemy — as ourselves.

We won’t see the old, sinful traditions pass away until we depart this life, either in death or when our Lord returns. Yet Christians are already allowed to practice the new traditions of our perfect family that will remain with us through the Resurrection of the Dead and into life everlasting.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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Based on my article from The Concordian of 18 July AD 2012.


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02 August, 2012 16:19  

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