I haven’t written on here in a while. I did promise to write whenever I felt the need to though, and that day is today. Thurman Adams, worship pastor at our church, gave quite the sermon at church and I felt it was worth repeating for those of you who may not have had the opportunity to hear it in person. Besides, no two perspectives are the same. Here goes nothing.
What’s the Problem?
What if the church is the problem? We were commissioned to be Christ’s hands and feet on this earth, but it seems that we’re often doing more punching and kicking than lifting those around us out of the muck. Much of this can be seen in the general opinion outsiders hold of the church, in America at least. We’re strict. We’re judgemental. We focus more on what not to do then what we’re supposed to be doing. Many are more familiar with our general stance on drinking and swearing than they are with how we show Christ’s love to others.
That’s a tragedy. Weren’t we warned about this? If I remember correctly, Jesus spent more time with the filthy untouchables than he did with the law-abiding religious people. Yet it seems that, even quickly after his ascension, we had already become the religious people. What are we doing wrong? How is it that the people Christ commanded to go out and show His love to the dirtiest of sinners have become the ones telling them to clean up first?
It seems that humans have a tendency towards using regulation to ensure proper behavior. Forget a heart change, just wear these clothes, say these words, and don’t go to those places or drink those things and you’ll be all good. It’s easier. We like easy.
Pharisees, Masters of Self-Righteousness
That’s why the Pharisees and other ruling Jews became the way they were in Christ’s time. God gave Moses a basic Law to guide them towards His heart and show them what pleases and what angers Him. They immediately added to and legalized it like crazy until they had regulations on exactly how long baking can take to still qualify the bread as unleavened. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that was God’s intent when He gave us the Law. I’ve talked over and over about how this is supposed to be a relationship with our Daddy, not a dull repetition of ritual.
The Pharisees were men of great righteousness. Percieved, anyway. They did no work on the holy Sabbath. They wore long, elegant robes denoting their importance. They spoke grand prayers in the middle of the street to show their devotion. They even tied boxes of scripture on their foreheads to fulfill a command of the Lord to write His law on their heads, hands, gates, and doorways. All of this, and Jesus calls them fools, broods of vipers, and whitewashed tombs. All of their rule-following got them no closer to their God.
A Better Example
With all of Jesus’ reprimands for the sins of the self-righteous Pharisees and all of His meals with tax collectors, sinners, and prostitutes, our path still resembles that of the self-righteous today. But what did Jesus do? How did he show his Father’s heart in these matters? One of my favorite passages of the New Testament is that of the story of the adultress. John records this for us. Jesus was teaching at the temple when a group of Pharisees brought before him a woman caught in the very act of adultery. The law was clear. God commanded Moses that whoever was caught in adultery was to be stoned to death. Teacher, what will you do? Surely you will not disobey God’s direct command.
But Jesus loved this woman. He was soon to die for her. This sin would be paid for. “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” The rocks left their hand, but none struck the woman. Quietly they thudded to the ground, the oldest walking out before the younger. They had lived long enough to know their mistakes.
When Jesus was alone with the woman he spoke again. “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” No one, Lord. Now it was the sinless one’s turn to make his judgment. But he held no rock. “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
I can almost hear his tone. It wasn’t high and righteous like her accusers. It was pleading. I died for you to be free from this. You don’t have to sin anymore. Your debt has been paid in full. Go, sin no more.
Tomorrow I’ll post the second part of this series, so stay tuned for the continuation to the discussion.