A wise man by the name of Nick England explained to me once that traditions should have purpose, meaning, and substance. He illustrated this by pointing to the tradition of birthday celebrations. What do we do on someone’s birthday? We eat cake, sing a song and fire is involved. Without context, that sounds like the typical weekend of a pre-teen boy. But on someone’s birthday, it means something, right? Everybody knows the song, everybody respects the tradition, but nobody knows why we do any of it. That’s why this is a terrible tradition.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Traditions should invoke a certain thought or elicit some other specific type of response from its participants. They should serve some purpose or else we’re just going to end up singing and lighting food on fire.
For instance, I understand thoroughly the purpose and benefit of my favorite tradition, and it’s one I perform every day. Each night, having sufficiently lived that particular day, I lie in my bed in silence. My mind slows and I fall asleep. It’s awesome.
Traditions also lead to unity. Because I attended the University of Florida, I will forever be able to bond quickly with others who have as well. We will be able to relate with one another about singing the alma mater, eating at Leonardo’s, painting the 34th Street wall, enjoying Lake Wauberg, avoiding Turlington Plaza like the plague during election season and experiencing “The Swamp” on a Saturday afternoon. If you aren’t a Gator, you don’t know what I just said. And therein lies the value of tradition.
It’s the same for BYX. Our brothers experience the same pledgeship, know the same secrets, strive after the same goals and are part of the same brotherhood. That is why the bond between a guy from Yale and a guy from Kansas is so automatic. That’s why I can call up a bunch of Mizzou brothers on a road trip and easily find a place to crash for the night. That is why when persecution, family tragedy or natural disaster hit one of our own, we have 2,200 active brothers and 6000+ alumni praying.
In Exodus, The Passover and The Feast of Unleavened Bread were instituted as reminders of the Lord’s deliverance of his people from the Angel of Death and Egypt, respectively. The Passover wasn’t created just so the people could have a cool new way of eating lamb and playing with their blood. It wasn’t just because God was on a new diet kick that he told the people to eat bread without yeast. And he sure didn’t want them just going through the motions each year when they observed these traditions. He told them to make sure their children understand the why.
The Lord’s Supper is a similar tradition of remembrance. Each time we take Holy Communion, we are remembering Jesus’ sacrifice. First Corinthians 11:23-32 expresses, however, that it’s not just a recollection, but a proclamation. We proclaim the Lord’s death each time we partake, and therefore are required to examine ourselves and repent beforehand, that we may come to the table prepared for such a gravid undertaking.
The Scriptures are explicit. Verse 29 of this passage states: “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” Ouch. If we don’t understand the purpose of our participation in this particular tradition, we cannot understand how to approach it properly and, clearly, the consequences are great.
Though the traditions we hold dear as a fraternity should by no means be held in as high esteem as the ones outlined in Scripture. However they both draw their significance from what they stand for. We as brothers, understand what our traditions stand for in the same way other believers grasp what church traditions represent.
So I challenge my BYX brothers and anyone else reading this to reflect on the heart of the traditions we may be floating through blithely. What purpose do they serve? Are they helpful or harmful? What do they point to? We ascribe significance to a tradition based on what they point to, which in turn defines their impact.