I read an article in a magazine I get the other day about Pharisees. The majority of the article I can;t say i really agreed with, but his overarching premise was one of I have pondered for a very long time. His main point was that Christianity if full of people who know very little about what a pharisee is, but feel they are fully capable of labeling someone as a pharisee with their very limited knowledge. The result is much false labeling of pharisees.
I see this happen a lot. I think it is becoming a bigger problem in the church today. It has almost become one of the latest witch hunts within the church. Anyone who resembles anything close to pharisee and legalism is stoned with verbal abuse and shunned by others. They are judged for being supposed judgers. It’s ironic really. When someone feels judged it is often because they are backed into a corner. They realize they have no real Biblical argument to make in their defense so they twist whatever Scripture they can by judging the other person in saying they are being to judgmental. What? Have we really become this petty? I am afraid so.
Legalism is a legitimate problem. The pharisees had some real issues. Jesus had not problem speaking out against their behavior, but Jesus also spoke an awful lot about holiness. He spoke an awful about turning form your sin. He spoke an awful lot about living like a Christian is supposed to live. Jesus cared about your actions. He just cared that your heart and your actions lined up. They both had to be in sync.
That is the problem though. The pharisees cared about the actions, but the heart issues were never dealt with. There were still issues of pride. There were still issues in the thought life. There were still issues of rage and malice. They acted the right way, but their heart was really messed up. There is a flip side though. If your heart is in the right place then you will live out your life a certain way. Don’t mistake this for living perfect. To many people hear this argument and think they are being told to live perfect. We do sin. It happens. How do we respond in our sin though? How do we respond when someone confronts us on our sin? Do we call them a pharisee? Chances are we are being the bigger pharisee in that moment then.
Christ didn’t ignore the issues on the outside. He didn’t ignore the issues of our actions. He just started from the inside and worked his way out. One affects the other. I have to wonder how Jesus would feel about our witch hunt on legalism today. I get that it exists. I get that it is a problem. I don;t like legalism. It gives us a bad name. Legalism is not confrontation of sin though. It is not when one believer sees a genuine sin in the life of another believer and helps him to be aware of it. Let’s stop playing games. You can’t hide behind the pharisee argument. You misquote Jesus in those moments. I don’t know about you, but that is a mistake I would not want to be making.