Tag Archives: Pharisee

An Unfortunate Conversation

Conversation I had yesterday with my boss/senior pastor, as best I remember it:

Me: So there’s one more outreach idea that I wrote in my report that we’ve been talking about [the English deacons and I], but actually I keep forgetting to bring it up at our meetings. [The Winnipeg Gay Pride Parade is coming up, and I wanted us to do some sort of act of service at it, like handing out water bottles to parade-goers]

Him: I saw that and I have some concerns about it. [previously he’s told me he believes homosexuality is the “worst sin”]

Me: Oh?

Him: Yeah, I don’t think you should do anything for it.

Me: Okay? Jesus said to love our enemies – not that they’re enemies – but I thought this would be a good opportunity since they march right past our church.

Him: People might get the wrong idea about us. People film at those events. They might think we support it.

Me: Well, what if we didn’t wear anything that had our church name on it or any slogans or anything?

Him: No. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Me: People misunderstood Jesus too. The Pharisees were offended and misunderstood Jesus when he went to tax collectors and “sinners” [Luke 6]. We can’t really control what others think, but they can ask us.

Him: Some churches hold up signs saying “we’re sorry” at this event, I don’t like that.

Me: Right, but we would just be handing out bottled water, hoping to show love and trying to create opportunities for one-on-one conversation.

Him: I saw a video recently where a woman stood up at a Muslim rally at a city hall in Texas, she took the microphone and proclaimed “Jesus is the one true God.” I was very inspired by her doing that.

Me: Right, but do you think anyone listened to her? It would be the same if we held up signs at the parade, even less offensive ones saying something like “Jesus loves you and wants a better life for you,” do you think anyone would listen? It would shut down any conversation before it could happen.

Him: It’s just I have some concerns about this. I don’t think you should do it.

Me: If I can say this, and I don’t mean any offense, but I think you’re being Pharisaical about this.

Him: We’re having a frank discussion.

Me: Jesus told us to love our enemies, and they’re not, but it’s a great opportunity since they walk right past our doors.

Him: I don’t want people to get the wrong idea because it will look like we support it. [at this point he suggested trying to start a weekly Bible study with a meal for the gay student association at UofW nearby, which I don’t believe would work, and besides, wouldn’t be sustainable for the congregation at this point in time. I only said the latter out loud though.]

Me: I just think it’s a good opportunity that we’re missing out on. But, since you’re my boss I guess we won’t do anything for it.

So. That was frustrating and disappointing. I knew there would be struggles at this church, but I didn’t think one of them would be to show love to people in such a simple way when the opportunity is so obvious. But his message was clear: don’t show love to others – and disobey Jesus’ explicit command – if it will make other religious people question or misunderstand us.

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Rubbing the Grain (of the Pharisees)

Wheat near Mount Nemrut, Eastern TurkeyContinuing on in my sporadic look at Luke, I reflected on Luke 6:1-11 today. Jesus rubs the Pharisees the wrong way (doesn’t He always?), by “working” on the Sabbath – picking and eating grain with His disciples, and healing a man with a withered hand.

In the account of the man with the withered hand, the text says that Jesus knew what the pharisees were thinking, and He healed the man anyway, something He described as ‘lawfully doing good.’ Sometimes we may need to go against the grain of our church’s traditions or practices, even when people in our tribe may disagree, in order to do good. I think of my friend who went to an affluent church where people dressed up every Sunday. He brought someone with him who could not afford nice clothes, and despite the frowning looks he got he also dressed down when he brought him. That’s a trivial example, but an example nonetheless, and showed love and gave dignity to his friend.1280px-CodexEgberti-Fol023v-HealingOfTheManWithTheWitheredHand

Luke also mentions that the Pharisees were watching Jesus, to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. They knew He could heal, but that didn’t seem to phase them. In fact, one of Pharisees who visits Jesus at night even admits that the they know He is from God (John 3:2). Yet that doesn’t seem to matter; they hold him to their traditions’ standards, and judge Him based on them.

One of the challenges from this passage then, is to look at how we judge our brothers and sisters from different denominations or theological traditions (cessationist vs. continuationist anyone? or how about Free Will vs. Predestination? Dare I even say Protestant vs. Catholic?), or those who worship differently than we do, or practice differently than we do, and to knock it off. Because frankly, our preferences for a certain interpretation or style of worship or dress or… anything, are just those – our preferences. And we may be condemning the work of God when we condemn our brothers and sisters, whom God has called and reconciled to Himself.

In the end, Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Luke 6:5). He is Lord over both our traditions and preferences, and yes, even over the commands He has laid out in Scripture. Now, I don’t believe He will ever contradict Scripture, but we must be very careful that we don’t turn our interpretations or traditions or preferences into the mark of orthodoxy – something I fear we do far too often.

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