Can You Be a Christian Without Your Rituals and Traditions?

By Donavon Riley

Take away your church’s rituals and traditions. What’s left? Can you be a Christian without your rituals and traditions? Take away liturgy, and hymns, and sermons. What about now? Can you still be a Christian without them? Take away the water, words, bread and wine. Can you be a Christian without water, words, bread and wine?

If everything that gives you meaning, that explains the unexplained, is stripped away, what’s left for you? Can you still be a Christian if all that’s left are your politics, or your customs, or your relations?

Is it enough that you share something in common? Some need for love, or acceptance, or company. How much can be taken away before you’re not able to call yourself a Christian?

What if the measure of a Christian is the same measure society uses to distinguish between conservative and liberal? What if they will know we are Christians by our love? How do we gauge a Christian versus a non-Christian?

Can we distinguish a Christian from a non-Christian by asking their opinion on abortion? Gay marriage? Women in the military? Public bathrooms and wedding cake?


What if a Christian isn’t a Christian because of their rituals and traditions? What if there’s more to Christianity than that? What if the mechanisms of religion, whether the religion is called Islam, or Judaism, or Shinto Buddhism, or Christianity don’t have anything to do with whether one is Christian or not?

Can we strip away talk of love and acceptance and good company, and still not be any closer to the truth of the Christian faith?

Can we divorce politics from our church and still have something to say to society at large?

Take away time-worn rituals, the meaning we inject into our customs, and the politics that offer us a common bond of unity. What’s left of Christianity? Most important, take all those things away and how many who profess to be Christians will remain in our churches?

Have we ground up Jesus in the mechanisms of our religion? Can we receive his body and blood for the forgiveness of sin, or do we require more, and better sacrifices? Is Jesus Lord and Savior, or must we vote for another?

Does Christian behavior, or Christian ethics, or Christian living make a Christian “Christian”?

No. The moment we believe in the promised Christ — the moment we look away from any supposed righteousness of our own, any means we use to measure Christian from non-Christian apart from Christ, and instead look to the external righteousness that Christ provides for all of us wicked — we are reckoned as wholly righteous before God. This is Christianity.


What distinguishes Christian from non-Christian? The Gospel. Not traditions, or community, or politics makes one a Christian. Not our focus on ourselves and the meaning we inject into our religion, but Christ Jesus outside us, his blood poured out for us, makes us Christians through faith.

At present, God delivers what Jesus earned for us at Golgotha through earthly water, words, bread and wine. The delivery mechanism is ritual and tradition, yes; and liturgy, hymns, and sermons. All instruments God puts to use delivering the Gospel for the purpose of making Christians.

Take away everything, but so long as we have Christ Jesus, and him crucified, we never have to ask, “What’s left?” Jesus is enough. His blood is enough. In Christ we have already received everything: forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation. That’s Christianity.

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