My reading of Matthew has brought me to chapter 23. The whole chapter is about the Pharisees and how and why not to be like them. Jesus exposes their religiosity for what it is – a meaningless show.
It is easy to read this putting it into it’s historical perspective and criticize them.
“So practice and obey whatever they say to you, butdon’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush you with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to help ease the burden.” Matthew 23: 3 and 4
“You look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” verse 28
“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you won’t let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and you won’t go in yourselves. Yes, how terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn him into twice the son of hell as you yourselves are.” verses 13 to 15
But did the Pharisees have a bigger problem with this than we as “conservative” evangelical Christians do now? Are we – wanting to appear so correctly religious – todays Pharisees? Are we crushing people with our religious demands and also being crushed by them ourselves (but not admitting it) as we find ourselves unable to live by what we teach? Are we just nice looking empty shells as we sit politely in our pews on Sunday when on the inside we are filled with stuff we cannot be proud of? Are we trying to turn the people of the other cultures we encounter into carbon copies of ourselves? Are we directing others to Christ or to our own preconceived (mostly western/european middle class) notions of what a Christian should be like?
I do not want to be a Pharisee. I do not want to be holding up a flawed church organization with all it’s built in expectations and unwritten rules as the ideal I point people to. We need to allow newcomers to this company of faith become new Christians not new Pharisees.
Free me from all my own misconceptions of what you are. Become the centre of my turbulant world – the lifechanging God that you are. Give me the grace to become more like you – to become more of a mirror where others will see your reflection. Help me to keep the mirror free from the fog of cultural expectations so that no matter who looks in it, they will see more of you and less of me. Keep reminding me of this when I tend to fog up the mirror. And don’t let me rest from this quest even if it stretches me beyond my comfort level. Keep me in it to the end – please God.