An Accidental Pharisee

read“How could she do this? Is she really walking with Christ?” My indignation boiled over. Was I right to be concerned? Perhaps. Were her actions consistent with a follower of Christ? I do not believe that they were.  But, my attitude was a problem, a major one! For a moment, I lost sight of redemption and restoration.

Larry Osborne, a pastor, speaks of becoming ‘an accidental Pharisee.’  He suggests that nobody, not even those Pharisees in Jesus’ time, wants to be the ‘Pharisee’ of our understanding; critical, judgmental, and hypocritical. And, yet it is those who are most passionate about Christ and His Kingdom who are most at risk of slipping into that place where I found myself.

The attitude of a Pharisee develops when comparison sets in, when concern for appearance takes over.  When I am more concerned about how the church is functioning, about protecting our reputation, than I am about loving the people Jesus loves, I have become an accidental Pharisee. Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25-26, NIV)   Whenever we take care to create an image, spend time making sure we are making the right kind of impression, even if it is supposedly to help others ‘see Jesus in us,’ we become Pharisees.

Let’s be clear about something. Jesus did not say “Ah, who cares how you live? Just do whatever you want. God is love!”  Rather, He tells us to get our inside right first so that there is no gap between what others see and who we actually are! Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that discipleship does not require holiness because our culture of tolerance.  Some insist, “Don’t judge me” but they are really saying, “Let me do my own thing.” Christianity is not a private thing, just Jesus and me. We live in community, part of His Body, and we are responsible for one another.  And yes, those who lead must constantly correct and encourage those in their spiritual care. We are, in fact, our brother’s keeper.  Others insist that “love triumphs over all,” as if love removes all calls to conform to the likeness of Christ.  Love does indeed cover a multitude of offenses, but the highest love is truthful.

Accidental Pharisees have a misplaced focus – their gaze slips from Christ to Self.

Have you concluded that somebody in the church needs to go?
Have you decided that they are unworthy of being a disciple?
Have you made the choice to withdraw from their company because you think you are better than they are?
Perhaps you have made the same mistake I did, becoming an accidental Pharisee!

Let’s not lose our passion for a holy kingdom of beautiful saints!
But, as we pursue that aim, let’s remember that there are those who are mature and those who are babes, there are those who are growing and those who have stalled (often for reasons we cannot know or see), there are those who are very different from us in personality yet incredibly important to the whole work of Christ in the world.  When those of us who are little farther down the road slip into that accidental Pharisaicalism, may God remind us of the two pillars of righteousness – Loving Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving others as we love ourselves.

Here is a word from the Word. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:19-24, NIV)


We Will Stand

You’re my brother, you’re my sister,
So take me by the hand;
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us,
When we’re walking side by side,
As long as there is love
We will stand!

Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand,
Why we pull away from each other so easily?
Even though we’re all walking the same road
Yet we build dividing walls,
Between our brothers and ourselves.

The day will come, when we will be as one,
And with a mighty voice
Together we will proclaim that Jesus,
Jesus is King.
It will echo through the earth
It will shake the nations,
And the world will see,
See that

You’re my brother, you’re my sister,
So take me by the hand;
Together we will work until He comes.
There’s no foe that can defeat us,
When we’re walking side by side,
As long as there is love
We will stand!

James Hollihan | Russ Taff | Tori Taff © 1983 Word Music, LLC (a div. of Word Music Group, Inc.) CCLI License # 810055

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