Friday, June 20, 2008

Who's the Pharisee?

Many theologians have suggested that there is no new sin under the sun. Rather there are merely the same old sins that men have always struggled with, expressing themselves in new ways. The more I study church history and the more I see the cultural changes around me, the more I realize the truth of such thinking. Generally, when we think of religious pride our thoughts generate to those who think they are more righteous than the next because of all of the extra rules they keep--we associate pride with self-righteousness and legalism. However, without surprise, our anti-legalism, anti-rules, freedom-craving culture has found a way to evidence the same pride evidenced by the legalists of yesterday.

I cannot even begin to count how many modern day Christians I have met who think themselves superior because of their ability to not be bound by rules. For many it is almost a game--"How uncomfortable can I make legalists feel while I am around them?" That's right, people today get cocky (self-righteous) in their own ability to not fall prey to a self-righteous disposition. Let me fill you in on something: you are probably less novel and more annoying than you think if you surmise that your lawless actions are that which is going to "fix" Christianity.

Don't get me wrong, legalism is wrong. Heaping up rules for the sake of... heaping up rules is wrong. Heaping up rules for the sake of appearing more righteous than you actually are is wrong. But so is fleeing from rules for the sake of... fleeing from rules. So is fleeing from rules for the sake of appearing more righteous than you actually are. So is fleeing from rules for the sake of teaching your legalistic brethren a lesson on "true" righteousness.

Jesus did not go about fixing the legalistic Pharisees by getting a big head about how much beer he could drink without it effecting his conscience, how many dirty movies he could watch without it making him feel less spiritual, or how many dirty words he could spew out of his mouth without it effecting his righteousness. Rather, he sought to show up the Pharisees by not allowing the lesser laws dealing with externals to get in the way of the more important laws of love, mercy, and justice. Do you want to teach the legalists a lesson (and they probably need one)? Obeying less rules is not going to do the trick, but love, a love which cannot be bound by rules involving externals, will.

I do not in any way want to communicate that extreme legalism should not be countered. It should! However, we must be careful about how we counter it. We must be afraid of going to the same place of self-righteousness that they are at. In the same way that we should counter those who add laws to the Scriptures, we ought to be concerned to not extract principles laid down in the Scriptures. I hate to say it, but really... it all boils down to love. Loving others to the point of self-forgetfulness. So, who's the Pharisee? Well, if you think your life, as opposed to your love, is what people need--if you do what you do for the sake of making a point rather than doing what you do out of love--you're the Pharisee.

"For you are called to freedom, brothers; only don't use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love." (Gal 5:13).


Anonymous said...

Thanks Jimmy, I needed to hear that. God reminded me of it this week. If I have no Love I am nothing. I cor 13:2
(nothing = nonexistent.)

Luke Snowden said...

great post