Friend or Pharisee?

Every now and then I’ll shop a little too much, I’ll be extra high maintenance and dare I say, act spoiled. It’s in these moments that my husband will gently say something like “I love you but don’t forget where you came from.” He will couple it with a bashful smile as if that’s going to make the reminder sting less. I’m always annoyed at his suggestion but it’s almost always spot on.

I’m ashamed to admit that just like my physical life, sometimes I forget where I came from in my spiritual life as well. In fact, I think we all do. Maybe that’s why there are spiritually starved people all around us while the church is simultaneously suffering as well.

From the outside looking in, it makes no sense. If the world needs Jesus now more than ever then why are so many churches struggling to stay filled and so many Christians unsuccessful in spreading the love of Jesus?

I once heard a pastor explain how to remember what a Pharisee was. A Pharisee, he said, was “fair. You see.” Simple explanation that packs a spiritual punch. A Pharisee enforced the laws of the land and at the expense of showing love and grace. When Jesus came on the scene, he showed love and grace but they were too stuck on the “rules” to be blessed. Jesus came to lead others to his Father, the one who passes out judgment, through himself and his sacrifice on the cross. Instead of being in awe and wonder, they began to inwardly despise him and hate grew in their hearts. They couldn’t get past not having the control of the law and it rotted them from the inside out, robbing them of their blessings. The Pharisees thought they were better than the others by the laws they enforced.

Many of us have forgotten where we came from when God called us out of our mess. We’ve mistaken being ‘set apart’ for ‘better than’ and it really shows. Even on my best days, I have to remind myself that when I was a sinner I loved to drink alcohol and play cards all night. I’d cuss you out in a heartbeat and not even lose sleep over it. When I became saved, I didn’t get delivered from my taste for alcohol or my sometimes untamable temper. No, I have to pick up my cross daily and follow him. It’s a choice that I make each day to die to my flesh and grab onto Jesus. I know that if I let myself slip up on reading the word and prayer, that if I let stress get the best of me I will get that urge to have a drink or run my mouth. And even though this is my truth, why do I feel afraid of judgment as I’m typing it? It’s because some of y’all have forgotten that set apart does not mean better than.

And if I feel afraid to share my truth as a woman who has been saved several years, I wonder if it’s possible that sinners aren’t confiding in us because they are already carrying the weight of their guilt and don’t want to carry judgment as well?

Maybe reaching the lost looks a lot less like shoving rules and regulations down their throat and a little more like showing grace, love and mercy. Maybe it’s telling them that the sin they are bound by once had you entangled too. Maybe it’s sharing your ugly past with them so they don’t feel alone in their journey. Maybe it’s trusting God to do the heavy lifting while we just spread the message of His redeeming love. Maybe, just maybe, If we trust God to convict hearts that are deep in sin, we won’t feel the need to judge them on his behalf.

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