Confessions of a Pharisee
As I unsuspectingly opened my Bible for my morning devotions, my selection fell on Matt 19 –the Pharisees (thank God I am not like them!) confronting Jesus about divorce. As my eyes scanned down the page, something began to swim in my mind: Instead of hearing the words of insipid enemies of Jesus, I was hearing my own taunts, my own reasonings, a very familiar method of critiquing new teachings.
For several months before this I had been engaged in a debate with a pastor friend who had become convinced of evolution. He is well read, articulate, intelligent, convincing. Only one weapon I have – I know the Bible better than most, and I know how to use it. I care not for logic or philosophical axioms or scientific proof. The only thing that matters is to defend the Bible, and in it, find the truth. Although I hated battling with my friend, something inside compelled me – “If I don’t stand up to this heresy, who will?!” This was eerily reminiscent of theological battles we had had 15 years ago which ended fellowship with our denomination – and I was holding the cloaks of those who threw the stones.
In the middle of this quagmire I went back to school. I had been a Bible teacher for years, and now just a student. Paradigm shifting perspectives of ministry were the fare – simple churches; non-hierarchical leadership; women in ministry; engaging with the world and other religions in innovative ways, etc.
I wrestled internally with almost every teaching that came down – not in principle, but in small details that caught me like barbed wire. I was finding the teachings true to the spirit of Jesus yet clashing with “problem” passages in the Bible that seemed to be more important to defend than the very tenor of the message!
And so this morning, with Mt 19 before me, I saw myself standing with some other white robed hypocrites, asking Jesus, “what about this verse, Jesus? And what about that verse?” We actually have a pretty solid case –solid as chapter and verse! Did you ever notice how unsatisfying his answers were to the Pharisees? Like they were asking about rule # 3297, and Jesus was talking about what was on his Fathers mind when he wrote that love letter! As a good Pharisee, I could see, Jesus was just not reading the Word like me. As a friend, I knew it was not he at fault, but me. And not just a wrong technique of Bible study – but an issue of the heart. I AM A PHARISEE! I am deeply spiritually diseased.
When God showed me my heart and repentance welled up as a response, I was set free. That was over six months ago, and it is such an adventurous new perspective to life I have been given. I see now that Jesus was not a defender of orthodoxy or the sacred scriptures. So why should I be? He was, and is, a purveyor of truth. And perhaps truth is not so often found in the black and white of chapter and verse, as it is in a deeper look into the heart of The Word Himself.
I would love to hear your comments – chapter and verse please!