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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Used to Be a Pharisee

Pharisees have never ceased to exist in any part of the world. The name in its semitic form means "the separated ones, separatists." The name alludes to the idea that they consider themselves better than others. They know everything about the "true" way things should be. Everyone else is deluded or evil.

This gives the Pharisees the right to condemn all others. They can look down upon others because they have meticulously kept the faith by condemning all forms of unrighteousness. They do not like contact with the unrighteous. They must keep themselves pure and purity means they will keep themselves separate from the sinners. Their condemnation of the sinners generally kept the sinners from coming close.

It is no wonder that baptisms will fall when the church becomes like the Pharisees. Even their prayers are condemning to those who hear them. Their goal is not to make people like Jesus but to make people like Pharisees. They will travel the whole earth to make a disciple who will become just like them.

Pharisees lack justice and mercy. Their care of keeping the law and truly living a righteousness by works doesn't leave room for grace. Grace carries in it both justice and mercy. There is no justice or grace in telling someone that sin is not sin. There is no mercy or grace in condemning someone to sin. Grace is the open hand that helps the person up; not the elbow in the back that keeps him on the ground. It is arms of forgiveness and love; not the cold unforgiving law which never hears or understands.

Pharisees point toward the law. Jesus gets in the way. He is a tool, not a friend, for the modern Pharisee. His words of forgiveness and love get in the way making people righteous. His compassion of forgiving those who crucified Him muddies the waters of what needs to be done to those who won't follow the law. The Pharisee is still yelling, "Crucify him!"

The Pharisee thinks that churches and pastors who are able to live among sinners have become liberal. The Pharisee believes the people need to know that they are condemned for their unrighteousness before they can know they are loved into salvation. However, the Bible says that Jesus came to save rather than condemn the world. It says that God loved us while we were yet sinners. Love must be extended before the law.

I used to be a Pharisee. I wanted to preach messages that would break people's hearts. I have seen people come forward, lay down at the front of the church and weep after one of my cold hard sermons. I thought that was good at the time. How wrong I was.

I understand better than ever that I am an ambassador for Jesus Christ. I extend who He is to people. I realize that He loved people first. He was invited into the homes of others and loved on those people. The only people He truly had trouble with was the Pharisees who wanted Him to become like them. He condemned them for their teaching because they thought it was righteousness.

I will be recognized as one of His disciples if I have love for others. There is no claim of being recognized if I keep the law better than others. I have to love like He loved. I need to be the person who gets invited to the sinners homes because I love them. I need to be the one who stands up against the "leaven" of the Pharisees because it lacks love.

I don't want to be a Pharisee any more.
Matthew 16:6 (NIV)
6  "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

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