What The Pharisees Can Teach Us
Sometimes it feels like the dominant voices in cultural Christianity these days seem to be espousing the very kinds of beliefs and practices that Jesus himself warned against.
In the first century, members of the ancient Jewish sect known as the Pharisees were not always uniform in their interpretations of the Torah, but they were united under one common banner: the notion that God would only bless God's people if God's people were faithful.
And by faithful, they meant faithfully adhering to the 613 rules in the Torah, as well as a host of additional rules that were tacked on for good measure.
They also believed that the blessings of God would never fully fall upon Israel unless the entire nation kept the rules, and returned to more traditional beliefs, and practices.
So the Pharisees spent a lot of time policing what other people were doing and calling them on the carpet when they perceived faithlessness was afoot.
Jesus described the Pharisees like this:
They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.No wonder Jesus contended with them so much. His message of the expansive, never-ending, unconditional love of God for all of Creation clashed with their teachings and beliefs. They seemed to prefer a God who was a bit ticked off, especially at those other people who didn't keep God's laws.
Sadly, far too many Christians today seem to be adopting the Pharisee's playbook in both word and deed. They focus on behavior modification for others, rather than turning their gaze inward to their own brokenness.
And they imagine that if they can only get those other people to get with the program, God will bless them.
We can do better. Richard Rohr puts it like this:
We mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, not demanding it of others or trying to force it on others.May you spend your good energy today and every day on ways to find peace, healing, reconciliation and the restoration of your relationship with God and others. May you discover along the way that the world around you responds to the wholeness you are uncovering, is drawn to it and longs for it.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.