Are We the Pharisees of Our Day?: Probing Question for the Modern Day Christian

Posted: December 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

Luke 5:17-26 — Today, as we continue this passage, we will look at another of the players in this scene, the Pharisees. They were a political as well as religious group and were among the three main sects of Judaism at the time (the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes). The Sadducees were the aristocratic ones. The Pharisees were made up more of the common, let’s say middle class, and the Essenes were those that rejected mainstream Jewish society for they felt that it had been corrupted.

The Sadduccees believed in strict interpretation of the Old Testament law (if the OT didn’t say anything they did not believe in stretching it to cover situations not covered). Since they were of the elite, rich class of Jewish society, they were more willing to support anything which maintained their priestly class and position. The Essenes were that fringe group that withdrew from society and lived a monastic lifestyle in the deserts outside Jerusalem. They rejected Jewish society because they felt that it had become corrupted with politics and intrigue. That leaves us the Pharisees. They believed in a liberal interpretation of the OT law and created volumes and volumes of interpretation of the law to apply to every area of life. The Pharisees, primarily scholars and educators, were politically inactive, and studied, taught, and worshipped in their own way. They accept the written Law of Moses known as the Torah, the written Tanakh (all other books in the OT) and in oral traditions and teachings. The Pharisees were a group that practiced a form of extreme Judaism that extended beyond the Temple, applying Jewish law to everything, even mundane activities in order to sanctify (set apart as holy) the every day world. This fact made them very much eventually into a social club that had the in-crowd and the out-crowd. The law was more important to them than people. They saw themselves as the brokers of God’s law. You were either for them or against them.

With this background, we see them in this scene. They had heard of this Jesus so they sent some of their crew to see and hear Him. They were curious. What they heard shocked them. They could not believe that Jesus had said they a person’s sins were forgiven. Only God can forgive sins they said. Jesus was speaking blasphemy. They were the brokers of God you know! Does this remind you of anyone or any church that you might have attended in your past? Only God can forgive sins so we will punish you forever for them. If you are not behaving by what I perceive as my holy standards, I will exile you. This is the church that we do not want to become. Surely, there were Pharisees that were very favorable to Jesus and to the subsequent church but a large part of this sect saw Jesus as a threat. They held the power of what was right and what was wrong. They were the interpreters of the Old Testament. They may have not had much direct political power but they held sway over Jewish religious life as the self-anointed interpreters of the law. There is something to be said for holding our friends accountable to the Word, but without forgiveness and restoration it creates segregation. The haves and the have nots. The religious and the heathen.

We as Christians are often perceived today as Pharisees. We are seen as judgmental and intolerant. We have not put our best foot forward in society today. We often stand behind our fences and comment on the sad state of affairs in society today. We call Obama the antichrist. We condemn society for its downward spiral into the abyss. And sit back and wonder how the other side has become so intolerant of us that the mere mention of anything Christian nowadays is being removed from society. Satan most assuredly has a lot to do with the perception of us today however we have not helped ourselves. We are perceived as the Pharisees of our day. More interested in judging than loving. More interested in condemning than forgiving.

We must engage society. Instead of complaining about society and how the government has become godless and intrusive, maybe we should not sit behind our fences and throw rocks. Maybe we should engage our society one on one. I see so many Christians post on Facebook about how the country is going to hell. Westboro Baptist Church, a phariseetical church if there ever was one, protests with hatred for everything. They are self-anointed brokers of Bible and use it as a battering ram. How many of them are actually out in the culture trying to change it for Christ? Although most Christians are not like that, we are vocal from afar. We post on Facebook about how rotten the world has become but yet do nothing. Let’s not throw rocks. Let’s engage our culture. Let’s not stand in our watchtowers and throw fiery darts. Certainly, we are not to accept behaviors that are in opposition to Scripture as OK but Jesus dined with sinners in order to teach them of the Good News. He did not cast off people because of their sins. He will hold us accountable for our sins but His first and foremost interest was in seeing people reconciled to God. No one was so far gone that Jesus would not associate with them. We must change the world from the inside out with Jesus’ message of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. We engage culture not stand on the sidelines and condemn. Jesus was out there in the streets. We should be too.

Within our own churches we should be as welcome to forgiveness among ourselves as anyone. How many people of the church have left the church because of lack of forgiveness within our own walls. How many people have run from the church as a result of this very issue. I am not saying that we should accept continuous unrepentant behavior as OK but our eye in any holding our neighbor accountable to Scriptural living is not to kick them out of our midst. Our eye should be on repentance and ultimately to restoration. All of it done in love. Love should drive everything we do both inside our walls and out. Love was what drove Jesus to the cross. Love was what drove Jesus into Matthew’s home for dinner. Love was what the disciples all died for. Love changes everything.

Anything less that love that leads to repentance and restoration is just plain out being a Pharisee. Judge and jury rather than love leading to repentance and restoration. Am I Pharisee? Are you? Where’s the love of Jesus? Instead of what should we do it should really be the cliche, What Would Jesus Do?

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