Monday, March 23, 2009

What’s Wrong With Being a Pharisee?

In most Christian thought processes the term Pharisee is offensive since it was this group that were ultimately responsible for putting Jesus on the cross. The other negative aspects of being labeled a Pharisee was that they were cruel, hard-hearted and very legalistic. No one could fault them for their zealousness as they believed in their system and sacrificed greatly to go over land and sea to convince others to do the same.

On the positive side, they were faithful to the word of God and were not just hearers of the word but believed that it must be applied to their daily lives. With that approach, how could they have missed Messiah, the very one that they were seeking after?

Easy. We all have a tendency to go down the same path as them. We create a thought process or system that we end up serving rather than the one who never did what others expected. I’m simply a recovering Pharisee and when I realize that, it helps me re-examine some of my motives and interactions with others. My heart says I don’t want to be a Pharisee, cuz a Pharisee’s not fair, you see. But my actions are not always in alignment with my heart.

The secret to not being one is really quite simple. Allow yourself to be one for a while and interact with Jesus like they did. Don’t think of yourself as being better or above them. And then ask Jesus to break through the blindness and reveal himself in a deeper way to you.

How do we do this? Read the gospels daily. Don’t get caught reading the Bible everyday without reading the gospels everyday. Read them as the stories that they are meant to be, not teachings but stories that reveal Jesus to us as He interacted with his world. Put yourself in the stories playing different roles. Be a leper that Jesus cleansed. Be a leper that didn’t come back and say thank you when he was healed. Be the woman at the well. Experience her surprise when she “discovered” the living water. Be an onlooker and feel their disgust when Jesus talked to this sinful woman.

Anoint Jesus’ feet with tears and perfume and realize that there were others condescendingly looking on. Allow yourself to be Judas arguing that her gift could have been better used for the poor, while secretly lusting to control more money. What was it like to be a people forsaken, money grubber like Zaccheaus, and then have Jesus invite himself to his house for a party? What unbridled joy caused him to pay back all that he had extorted from others? Did everyone accept him after his “conversion”?

What about being the person Jesus was talking to when he said, "Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' Matthew 25:16
I discovered a modern day application of this passage when I was surprised to discover that I had been teaching and practicing tithing to a local church, ahead of family or the needs of the desperately poor? This actually didn't make things easier since many of my friends believe and teach tithing is to be done first. They now see me as one who robs God. I had to come to grips with following my heart and not the crowd and letting others have the freedom to do the same. BTW: I find it easier to do the former rather than the latter. Yeppers, I'm still a recovering Pharisee.

Imagine being a Pharisee at Jesus’ first miracle when they would have been enraged that He used the water from their ritual washing pots to make wine. Do you think they enjoyed His wine? Would your conscience let you enjoy His wine today?

Try to imagine being one of Jesus’ followers who had no hope inside themselves immediately following the crucifixion. Or what if you were Mary who discovered the empty tomb and nobody believed you that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Jesus broke all of the man made rules and showed them mercy, justice and faithfulness. Step into the shoes of every person that saw Jesus face to face. Experience their joy, anger, sadness, confusion, disappointment, peace… as he upset every system that they had learned to trust while loving them more than life itself. If He were to walk in our world today, do you think it's possible that he would offend any of the groups that are following Him with their whole heart?

There's a well known acronym, WWJD, What would Jesus Do? I think before we ask that question we might want to answer this one, WDJD, What did Jesus do?

The stories were written to help us be there, enjoy them. Then, ask the Holy Spirit to make them come alive in order to know Jesus as He is meant to be known today. Don't be surprised when you are surprised.

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