This series is related to my Kingdom Culture series: both seek to illumine and extend the voice of Christ beyond the walls of our churches by equipping Christians to represent Jesus, His Gospel, and His Kingdom in authentic and faithful ways. I hope you enjoy The Mirror.
Now that I understand that Pharisee is not so different from Sinner, it frees me up to see more clearly. I can see where I once was and where I am today. That I can see clearly does not mean that I am no longer a Sinner or a Pharisee: it simply means that, so long as I abide in Christ, I can see through HIS eyes.
“When” I stay in the place where I see through HIS eyes, I see more clearly why Pharisee and Sinner don’t get along. One reason is that their ‘planks’ blind them: actually, it is probably more accurate to say that their ‘planks’ make them far-sighted. This means that Pharisee can so easily see the error of Sinner but misses his own error. And vice versa.
Think about it this way: Sinner tends to camp far into the territory of grace and liberation that accommodates his proclivity toward personal freedom. If he is far-sighted, then he cannot see right under his nose. He misses his hedonistic condition. But from Pharisee’s perspective, who is also far-sighted, he sees all so clearly what Sinner is up to.
Pharisee tends to camp out ‘on the other side” – he dwells far into the territory of regulation and judgment that accommodates his proclivity toward self-righteousness. If he is far-sighted, then he cannot see right under his nose. He misses his pompous condition. But from Sinner’s perspective, who is also far-sighted, he likewise sees all so clearly what Pharisee is up to.
No matter how Sinner and Pharisee arrived at this place, they both pull, tug and ultimately twist the true message of the Gospel. Sinner cannot get enough of grace. Pharisee cannot get enough of truth (and stacking the deck against Sinner). Sinner knows grace – or a biased version of it. Pharisee knows truth – yes, a biased version of it. Each one of them is missing ‘the other half’ of the Gospel. They miss ‘the other side’ of the Gospel because they are wedged so far into their own territory.
In light of this, I cannot dull the cutting edge of C. S. Lewis’ quote in Mere Christianity, “One must leave his own culture if he is to really understand truth.” (my paraphrase) There is much to think about in that quote – how do I ‘leave’ the cultures and subcultures that I am part of? And how does that reveal truth (and grace for that matter) in a more accurate light?
Once again, from my life experience, I can simply attest to this insight by saying that we cannot see what we look like (thus, what we are like) if all we ever do is dwell in our own world. Sometimes, we need the ‘outside looking in’ perspective to shed light on who we really are.
For instance, people who watch 16 hours of TV each week have a very different perspective of life than those who don’t own TVs. For the record, we own 2 TVs so I am not trying to elevate myself here – but I do know godly people who don’t own TVs. The difference between the worldview of these two groups of people is very wide. For those that watch 16 hours of TV each week, you might not know what life is like outside entertainment and news until you step outside of that world. This is just an example; not a judgment. I suppose we could have considered those who garden on Saturdays! (me)
Before I get in trouble, let’s go back to Sinner and Pharisee: they really struggle to understand one another. They often despise one another. They really don’t view one another as neighbors – instead, they tend to view one another as enemies. They tend to stay as far from one another as possible. When they do meet, it tends to blow up into a Culture War. In other words, there is much division and volatility between these two brothers – between these two neighbors.
Just as the polar opposites “waiting and action” or “mercy and law” or “empowerment and accountability” work together for good, I will close this entry by challenging you with the premise that Sinner and Pharisee – these two polar opposites who despise one another – also work together for good. They BOTH work together for good. How so?
Next time, we’ll look at this.
Click here to easily navigate to Part 3.