Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Standard of the Pharisee

Discovering the humble nature of our God is all about how you read His story. Honestly, discovering anything about our God is all about how we read His story.

There's this interesting movement in broader culture that has just about everyone commenting on what it means to be a Christian. Atheists, especially, and those heavily involved in social movements that strike against God's Word, are quick to call out "so-called Christians," quoting (or misquoting) Jesus and Scripture at them in an effort not only to mock the faith, but to discredit it.

But it's the standard of the Pharisee. 

It's interesting to say that because the modern-day Pharisee is no religious man at all. In most cases. The Pharisees were men who were very learned in the Scriptures. They seemed to know everything the Bible had to say, or at least claimed to know it. On top of this, they added their own interpretations and traditions, and held the faithful to these, as well. And often, what they added from their own interpretation came from the word, not the spirit, of the Scripture. And often, this pulled the people away from true faithfulness. 

This is what we're facing today. Not from the learned, but from the twisted. Not from the interested parties, but from the parties with their own interests. The people who are so quick to quote the words of Jesus at us are the same people who turn their back on the Man Himself and refuse His example in deference to their own "learning." To their own interpretations of what the words mean.

They say, Aren't you not supposed to be judging people? Isn't that what your Jesus said? And yes, our Jesus said that. But our Jesus also called out the Pharisees, called to the sinners, and named sin for what it is. He looked at the woman caught in adultery, covered her in grace, and also told her, "Sin no more." Were we to do the same, were we to name adultery for the sin that it is, they would scream at us Do not judge! Because the word of Jesus is more important to them than the example of Him. 

They say, Forgive people. Aren't you supposed to forgive people? And yes, we are called to forgive. But forgiveness is not a blank stare. Forgiveness is not forget-ness. Forgiveness is not changing our minds about whether something wrong has been done; forgiveness is changing our mind about how we respond to that wrong. Forgiveness is naming it first, then covering it in grace. Yet the minute we name sin, the world calls us out on it. That doesn't sound very forgiving. Oh, but it is. The first step to offering forgiveness is knowing what needs forgiving. 

They say, Who are you to claim such authority? Why do you get to say what sin is? Or grace? And this is the very question they always asked Jesus. Just who do you think you are? It's the question we face every time we speak God's truth into the world. Every time we take a stand on His foundations. Every time we adopt an "unpopular" opinion. Who are we to get to decide? Who are we to think such a thing? Who gave you that authority?

The questions Jesus faced from those who considered themselves the religious elite are the very same questions we are facing today from those who still consider themselves elite. They have studied our Scriptures just enough to quote them, but they cannot cite them. They can throw the words of our Jesus at us, but they have lost sight of His spirit altogether. They have added onto this their own interpretations and traditions, as fits their social cause (usually), and they attempt to hold us, the faithful, to their standard of the faith. 

Then they stand in the streets and boldly and loudly proclaim, Oh, thank heavens I am not like these Christians.

While we Christians kneel and weep. O Lord, forgive me, for I am not so good at this not-judging thing, for I am not so quick to forgive, for I sometimes overstep Your authority and invest too much in my own.

Because we get it. We're not perfect. We're doing our best to do this Jesus thing; we're doing our best to get it right. We're taking in the example of our Jesus, in addition to His words, because it is only by watching Him do it that we understand anything at all about what grace is. 

But as we struggle to get it right, as we struggle to live the way God has called us to live in this world, as we try to weave our way through difficult issues and tough situations and all the social pressure of...well, look at society right now...we have to recognize the Pharisees for who they are. These people are not teaching us about Jesus; they're coercing us into their interpretations. They're masking the faith with so-called faithfulness, which has nothing to do, to them, with following Christ. 

And this is where we're at. Being a Christian means something different today than it did 2,000 years ago. In the early days, Christians were mocked for their faith; today, they are called faithless. Today, they are told they're just phantoms, just figments because they're not faithful. Back then, the words were twisted to keep people from believing in Him; today, they are twisted to keep us from behaving like Him. 

Beware the yeast of the Pharisees, for in such a time as this, it's starting to rise. 

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