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.
I don’t know about you but I would much rather be Sinner than Pharisee. In fact, when I do not abide in Christ, I really despise Pharisee. The thought that I might play the role of Pharisee mortifies me. Or at least, it used to.
Now I know that I am both of these characters. What is worse, the harder I try NOT to be Pharisee, the more I become who he is. This is downright troubling – if not for God’s grace.
I closed the last entry by suggesting that Pharisee and Sinner – though they battle one another – actually work together for good. They BOTH work together for good. How on earth can this be?
If Pharisee is entrenched far into the territory of judgment and law, then Sinner calls Pharisee toward mercy and grace. And if Sinner is entrenched far into the territory of liberation and hedonism, then Pharisee calls Sinner toward restraint and reasonable boundaries.
To be sure, Pharisee ties the knot called restraint much tighter than any of us are comfortable. So please don’t think you’re alone in being suspicious of him! Trust me, I feel choked by Pharisee’s tendency to obsess over the law. While he does have a gift to offer us – the problem is that he gives it way too often! (smile)
In an identical but exactly opposite manner, Sinner almost always ties the knot way too loose. Possibly like you, this does not seem to bother me as much! I kind of prefer loose structure and flexible forgiveness. (smile) But it bothers Pharisee! With his far-sighted vision, he sees how we gobble up grace. While we have the gift of grace to offer him – our problem is that we tend to use it all up on ourselves; we have little left to share with Pharisee. Or else we use so much for ourselves that Pharisee simply won’t accept any grace. In his view, the world is already out of balance with way too much grace; so he refuses to take part in this imbalance.
Time Out: Oops! I just did it again. I aligned myself with Sinner! I am sure it is some Freudian attempt to deny that Pharisee is alive and well inside me. You’ll have to forgive this blogger!
Do you see what’s needed here? Yes, balance! We need to mix Pharisee and Sinner together in order to arrive at a more Biblical expression of grace and truth in our lives. We cannot worry about the other Sinners in our world; nor can we worry about the other Pharisees in our world. God’s call is to you and me: to get the Gospel right; to represent Jesus right; to be honest with God; to be willing to repent ourselves; while being willing to offer grace and mercy to others.
We can either come “toward” this Biblical expression of the Gospel through an accumulation of life experience and a gathering of spiritual wisdom and human understanding. Or else we can obtain it through the tragedies of life. So often, that’s exactly what happens.
To illustrate this, it is human nature that people settle into their routines and our routines are interrupted by few things. But tragedy almost always interrupts routine. I think of all the people I saw in church on September 12, 2001 for mid-day prayer over the lunch hour. I don’t know about you, but I was in a church made for 2,000 people and I am sure there were 6,000 people packed in that place. Many people who had no spiritual interest suddenly developed an acute interest in Jesus following the tragedy of 911.
But what if we did not have to wait for the next tragedy to live out a more balanced, a more Biblical, a more accurate version of the Gospel? What if we could simply learn from one another?
God will not allow me to escape my own embarrassment by using other people as bad examples! With that said, I recently had lunch with a good friend who is a pastor. As I was sharing all my woes, he gently stared at me. He was giving me ‘that’ look. So I finally asked him, “Is there something you’d like to share?”
My friend looked me directly in the eyes and gently said, “You are longing for more meaningful connection with your wife and children.” It turns out that I had been working way too many hours. I had numbed by soul sitting at the computer late into the nights. Isn’t that what full-time ministry is all about? (no!)
“You are longing for more meaningful connection with your wife and children.”
With wake-up calls like this, I don’t have to wait until tragedy strikes or until I walk my daughter down the aisle to be filled with regret. We don’t have to wait to live rightly IF we are willing to learn from one another.
Thank God I have a friend who ‘saw clearly’ and ‘helped me’ to see more clearly. He may well not be spending enough time with his own family (who really knows, right?), but his far-sighted vision was able to spot my error. THANKFULLY so!
Of course I could have been offended. I could have responded defensively. I could have held stubbornly to my ministry, my calling, my rights and my self-importance. I could have said, “You don’t get it! I am on a mission from God.” (smile)
Yes, I could have done that. But to what gain? To keep working crazy hours missing my children grow up and missing intimacy with my wife? What a foolish man I can be…
Instead, I looked at my pastor friend shell-shocked. How did I miss it? How could he see so clearly and quickly what I seemed blinded to? And why?
I need to make one short clarification: please do NOT think I am calling my friend a Pharisee by referring to this concept of far-sightedness. My point is simply to say that when we abide in Christ and submit to one another’s strength, we can better help one another to see more clearly and thus approach the abundant life we all desire.
But there is a condition: we have to be willing to learn from one another. And that’s the problem: unlike my pastor friend and I who deeply love and respect one another, Sinner and Pharisee do NOT get along at all. Remember, they despise one another. So if they are to learn from one another’s strength, both will have to humble themselves. It’s as simple as that. They must humble themselves.
From this side: This is nonsense! Me? Learn from that wicked Sinner?
From the other side: This is nonsense! Me? Learn from that hatemonger Pharisee?
Nonsense? Maybe so. But it’s absolutely necessary.
In Kingdom Culture, one of the myths we uncovered is this idea that we are always right. We are NOT always right; and those we deem to be our enemies are NOT always wrong. We learned that our enemy is never as bad as we think he is; nor are we ever as good as we think we are.
Nonsense? I don’t think so.
We must humble ourselves and learn from one another. Pharisee from Sinner. Sinner from Pharisee.
I will have to conclude this series next time – I’m turning off the PC to go share life with my family!
Click here to easily navigate to the final entry, Part 4.