The Bare Soul - April 29, 2012
The Guise of Familiarity

Proverbs 22:28 - Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set.

There is something to be said for tradition. While some practices may seem archaic and out-dated to younger generations, traditions often have more significance as a person ages. Possibly there is some fear of losing touch with the past and the uncertainty of the future. However, if we take a close look at many family and societal customs, many were born out of the Puritanical eras of the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the 19th century Victorian era. Rather than re-embracing these qualities later in life, previous generations often lived this way from cradle to grave. As stated, much of the younger generations have lost an appreciation with many of the manners these prior generations engendered. However, it would appear we have lost something in our age by the insistence to forsake these values. To understand how this has affected our society at large, it would help to look at one of the most intact cultures in the world---the Jews.

Of all the Middle Eastern cultures, the Jews, to the most part, have survived with their culture intact. Why is this so? One only has to look at what they value. First of all, they believe in the Torah (Pentateuch), the words handed down from Moses. Within these first five books of the Old Testament there is a respect for each other, the earth, and most of all, God Almighty. Secondly, their later development of the Talmud elaborates on the written law, defining life to finite detail. Through the centuries, the Jews have attempted to live up to the expectation of these prescribed laws and edicts, at times more successfully than others. However, they have done it well enough to keep their society intact. Conversely, one would be hard-pressed to find a contemporary Hittite or Phoenician. They did not survive because they, like countless cultures, compromised their lifestyles to "fit in" with others. Therefore, the blending became ubiquitous with no outstanding characteristic of any other Middle Eastern people. They simply disappeared because of their lack of identity.

As aforementioned, traditions often become more "valuable" to someone as they age. Then again, I have witnessed large families who seem to keep traditions alive because they refuse to give them up. Others have to reach a certain age to see their importance. We may look at the example of the Prodigal Son parable (see Luke 15:11-32) and understand when the wayward child "came to his senses" that he realized the importance of family and what his father had sought to create for his posterity. The "ancient boundary", as suggested in our lead verse, became of paramount importance as the son realized the stability of their family's heritage. Many today might seek to forsake family and to minimize the importance of cultural traditions. Personally, the older I get the more I yearn for the common respect I was taught as a child. I remember growing up and how most people would not dare call someone by their first name unless the other had given permission to do so. I am constantly taken back when customer service people on the telephone or otherwise believe they have the liberty to call me "Rick". They are often taken aback when I ask them for their last name. If it is Smith or Jones or whatever I often say, "Well, Mr. Jones, I don't know you well enough to call you by your first name and I would appreciate you calling me Mr. Roeber as I will refer to you as Mr. Jones. If we ever become better acquainted, we may feel the need at that time to go to a first name basis." This is shocking to many people in our society today, but it shows a common respect which does not take for granted a familiarity that must be earned over time. As the saying goes, "familiarity breeds contempt". The ancient Jews did not allow it to compromise their culture, and neither should we.

I believe that respect toward the authority of tradition in our culture is directly tied to how we either reject or embrace it. If we do not regard it as important, our children and grandchildren will likewise not show respect to cultural mores which have built society. A simple thing such as a child calling an adult by their surname is a small step toward the revival of cultural norms in our modern world. The absence of regard toward authority and the ancient boundaries will only result in further decay of long-term cultural norms. If, as adults, we do not show respect to each other, how will our children behave? They will grow up with an attitude of familiarity which says I have a right to treat people however I deem appropriate, without any consideration otherwise. It is time to step up as the church, as fathers and mothers, as grandparents, as uncles and aunts, and insist upon respect. Only then will others learn the importance of not moving the boundaries related to ancient and tested traditions. These are what helped the Jewish people survive for millennia and inevitably what will also allow us to survive in this crumbling modern society in which we live. We must stand up for the family and for common respect, otherwise we will be diminished to the point of no return.

Heavenly Father, may You give us the wisdom to see how traditions and their values are indispensable to our survival. May You open our eyes for our need to stand up against familiarity and not to allow us to be diminished as a church, a society, or as a culture any further. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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