A Tendency to Phariseeism
Some time ago I heard someone say that everyone who has been a follower of Christ for more than three or four years ought to read the New Testament words of Jesus to the Scribes and Pharisees as if they were directed at them. It is true, in my experience that the present day church often reflects the spiritual blindness exhibited by the Scribes and Pharisees. It would appear that this kind of spiritual behavior is almost hard-wired into us.
In my devotional reading in John 9 recently, I came across the story of a healing that the Pharisees did not want to accept because it did not meet their predetermined criteria of what spiritual truth looks like. There are, I am sure, hundreds of sermons written and preached about their recalcitrance — how they refused to see Jesus as messiah — how they could not get beyond their limits on how God could act. They ‘kicked out’ the very one God had chosen to bless with healing because that healing did not fit their scripts. They were so invested in the picture they wanted painted that they missed what God was doing in their midst. That is the danger of religious systems.
The question that haunted me at the end of reflecting on the story was, “Where am I so invested in my own interpretation or understanding of things that God could not break through and change my course or give me a new understanding?” I know enough of myself and I have met enough people who refuse to see life from any other perspective than their own, that I understand we can be like children standing before God with our fingers in our ears shouting at the top of our lungs, “La, La, La, La, La….” so we cannot hear what He says.
But I think Jesus suggests that it is possible for us to avoid that kind of behavior. That is something I want. I want a heart tender toward God. I want Him to be able to bring me up short with a whisper or nod. I want to pray, “Deliver me, O God, from my own conclusions that are contrary to Your kingdom and lead me into the way everlasting.” It may be difficult to avoid the behavior of the Pharisees, but it is possible. This story is one that encourages me to reflect often about places where I might see God at work where I do not expect Him.
“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” Psalm 32:9
“Lord, to whom can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68