"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Why We're All Pharisees, Part Deux: We Are A Brood Of Vipers

Christ came primarily to earth to die in our place. He bore the weight of our sin and God's wrath.

However, in the meantime, He did a lot of other cool stuff. He taught, confronted, showed compassion,and loved.

One of the things He came to do was to destroy the political, social, and economic barriers that existed. I'm not arguing for a pure social gospel, although there are merits to that.

What I am saying is that Christ completely busted people's cliques, social circles, religious groupings, and safety nets. He especially concentrated on the Pharisees.

How many times did he tick those guys off? He blatantly broke their rules to prove points. He didn't wash hands like they wanted. He healed on the Sabbath. He spoke to tax collectors, Gentiles, adulterers, the infirm, and everyone else the Pharisees didn't want in their synagogue.

We read those stories in Sunday School, hear them preached and think two things.

First we think, "How dare those Pharisees act like that toward Jesus and those poor sinners!" Of course, we'd never do that. Would we?

Secondly, we think, "Well, those sinners must have been just fine after they met Christ. They must have said a sinners prayer or whatever we do these days and been right as rain."

As to the first statement, isn't it interesting how our churches look? I'm speaking in broad generalities, of course, but visit a church sometime and you won't see much different from one end of the spectrum to the other.

For instance, visit the local First Baptist and you'll likely find upper class to middle class people (and maybe a small percentage of lower middle class). They flock together in church. Just like our neighborhoods, we tend to live near people like us and we find people like us to worship with.

What's worse, there are some in church who will find the opportunity to look down on those who are less than them. The upper-class will look down on the middle or lower class.  The middle class will look down on the lower class and even be envious or judgmental of the upper class.

Take it a step further and visit a poor rural church filled with lower middle class to poverty level people. They might even have a somewhat wealthy family there that everyone looks up to (that even might run the show) that everyone is silently envious of. But some of the lower class will look down on the poverty stricken and the poverty stricken will look down on those lower than them.

It's our sinful, human nature. And it's Pharisaical.

The Pharisees were admired in their time for their wisdom. Not all of them were bad men. People came to them for life, religious, and practical advice. Unfortunately, their knowledge puffed them up and they began to look down on many people - the tax collectors, the sinful, the adulterous, the outcasts, and eventually Jesus.

It makes you wonder how the church today would treat Jesus if He came and visited our churches one Sunday. Would we recognize Him? Because I guarantee He'd bring people with Him we wouldn't want gracing the doors of our church.

He'd bring struggling homosexuals, those dealing with drug and alcohol addictions, prostitutes who are looking for the truth, strippers who are struggling to make ends meet and need help, ex-cons, the crippled, former pedophiles, and yes, people who had been caught in adultery.

Can you see it? Church people would be squirming in their seats.

What do we do with "those people" when they come to our churches today? We sent them off to counselors. We send them off to places where they can be "rehabilitated." Why? Because we don't want to have to deal with them.

Why? Because they don't belong in our worship circle. That, my friends, is Pharisaical. And that is counter to everything Christ taught us.

Let's take it one step further. We ought to be going out looking to win those people to Christ. To help them find the Savior who didn't just die for the white bread Christians in the nice neighborhoods, but for all men and women.

No wonder people reject church and Christ. They walk into our fellowships and see no one like them.

Christ sought out those who didn't look anything like the people in synagogue. Even the disciples chided him for his association with outsiders.

I'm guilty too. On three different occasions, I had three different people coming to Angel Falls who didn't fit the mold. I had a struggling alcoholic, an ex-Marine who had post-traumatic stress, and a family who lived out in the sticks who smelled really bad. I stood by all of them. I liked the fact that it made the congregation really uncomfortable. But they never lasted. I failed them.

As to the second point - that the sinners Christ met were instantly changed and were fine from that point forward - there's no evidence of that. Heck, even Peter struggled throughout the New Testament. He had to be publicly rebuked by Paul.

New Christians struggle. They fall again and again. And the church better be ready to pick them up and not give up.

We're so happy to see someone walk down the aisle and renounce their sin and follow Christ. To give up alcohol or a life of violence. But what happens when that person falls back a few months later and stops coming to church? A lot of churches give up.

Would Christ? No.

If Christ were here he'd probably look at a lot of us, sitting in our pews and say, "you hypocrites. You brood of vipers, you Pharisees. All of you are the same! I came for all of you in this community! Every single one of you is the same! I didn't come so you could sit stagnant in this place while the world is dying around you so you could watch it go to hell!"

I like to say that in our community, you can't throw a rock in the air without hitting a church or a Chinese restaurant. With so many churches, there has to be a place for all of these souls that need love and compassion.

Will we take the time to humble ourselves before Christ and recognize our Pharisaical attitude? Or will we continue on with business as usual? Will we continue to throw money at programs and let others do the work? Or will we begin to make our churches places where judgment is not leveled and where all may come to know Christ?

1 comment:

  1. You sound so much like my good friend, Ron Almberg - someone my husband and I went to Northwest College with - back in the day. He is on my blogroll and you and he think alike and would have much to discuss and many great and deep conversations, I'm sure! Ron and I have discussed this subject more than once. He does not currently have a church position - but was in ministry like us - for about 25 years. In that time you 'see it all' and it can change you. However - both of us have always agreed on this one point: If Jesus were here today - walking among us - he would be in the neighborhood and inner cities - NOT in the church. Why? Because the religious and self righteous gather there. I believe that He would be somewhat tolerant, but He would be annoyed and be where He could minister and do some good - and it would be different than what we think.