Life with Jesus / Pharisees

Fight the Pharisee: Woe #1

I washed my hair with moldy apple cider last Sunday.

It was unintentional, I assure you. Last year,  I found out that rinsing your hair with alcohol (i.e. beer) was really good for it and so I’ve been doing it every so often since November (read: During our home study, there were cans of beer that we forgot about under the guest bathroom sink.) About a month ago, I popped open a can of apple cider (the adult kind) and used half of it to rinse my hair. I left the other half sitting in Alex’s shower.

I usually use our guest bathroom, because, let’s face it, it’s just better if Alex and I don’t share a bathroom, but Sunday morning, house guests forced me to use Alex’s shower. When I got in, I remembered the half can of cider and so I dumped it on my head. The key to doing this is to let it sit for a while and really soak in. While I was waiting for it to soak in, I noticed something unspeakable on the handle of the shower door. It looked like an oddly shaped moldy band-aid or, and this is disgusting, a moldy piece of skin. (EW! I KNOW! WHY WOULD MY BRAIN EVEN GO THERE?) I started to panic a little about how disgusting my husband was to allow such a thing to live in the place where he’s supposed to clean his body. In my panic, I tilted my head down towards my feet and another piece of “the bandaid” fell off my head.

That’s when I realized.  That moldy disgusting mess was not Alex’s, it belonged to the can of apple cider that I had just dumped on top of my head.

We now refer to this as “the incident”.

There I was, judging my husband for being nasty, when it was ME who was having the real issue.

When I tried to relay this story at church, instead of saying, “EW! That’s gross!”, my friends responded with, “And how did it turn out for you?” LIKE I ACTUALLY WANTED TO WASH MY HAIR WITH MOLDY APPLE CIDER.

You know you’re too granola when your friends can’t tell the difference between purposeful and accidental mold in one of your stories.

I’m going to go ahead and say that this story could serve as a modern day illustration of Jesus’s admonition towards judging. The modern day version of Matthew 7:3-5 could read:

3“Why do you look at the moldy “band-aid” in your husband’s shower and pay no attention to the moldy apple cider in your own hair?4How can you say to your husband, ‘Let me berate your for the sad state of affairs in your shower,’ when all the time there is moldy apple cider on your own head? 5You hypocrite, first wash the mold out of your own hair, and then you will see clearly to  ask your husband to clean the shower. 

WOE #1

 13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. (Matthew 23)

I’ve noticed a recent, disturbing trend where Christians feel the need to loudly, openly proclaim how they feel about certain sins. Geez, all you have to do is scroll through the comments section of any blog or news story or video about homosexuality and you’ll get a clear picture of how Jim Bob from LaFayette feels about gay people. The online Christian community is so quick to cry “Sinner!” when it comes to people outside the church and yet our own community seems like it is immune from being scrutinized.

Here’s the deal.  Jesus reserved his harshest words for the religious people, for people who were already supposed to “get it”. The prophets that railed on people about their sin? They were talking to the Isrealite nation, NOT the people outside the faith. If you don’t believe me, all you need to do is go peruse the gospels and see that Jesus was loving and warm and compassionate to sinners.  He ate and hung out with the “sinners”. He didn’t stand 100 yards away and take pot-shots at their morality; He certainly wouldn’t volley offensive, hateful directives while cowering behind the anonymity of a computer screen. This isn’t to say that He wasn’t “tough” on sin- the call to die to oneself and give Him your whole self is a requirement to follow Him, regardless of your background- but He did extend grace and mercy to sinners first, and their response to His grace and mercy and humility was the real deal reaction that He came looking for anyway.

Think about it-

The woman at the wellJesus breaks all kinds of cultural boundaries (gender/religious/etc) and humbles Himself by asking a Samaritan woman for some water.  He talks to her about what He can offer her and her response to Him is confessing her sin and instead of being shamed, she’s intrigued by his reaction. She repents. She believes.

Zacchaeus (was a wee little man)– In a mob of people, Jesus singled out little Zacchaeus, who was hated because he worked for the Roman overlords and stole from the Jewish people. He didn’t say, in front of all those people, “Hey there, you sinner! Repent and then I’ll hang out with you!” He honored Zacchaeus by singling him out and asking him to dinner. When the (religious) people grumbled about it, Zacchaeus decides to respond to Jesus’s invitation by making correcting all the wrongs he had made.

The Adulterous Woman– A group of religious people come to Jesus and throw a woman accused of adultery at Jesus’s feet, demanding that He abide by the Jewish law of stoning her to death. Jesus does NOT respond with “Hey there, slutbag. Are you going to repent so that I can benevolently show you grace and mercy?” Nope. He levels the playing field by asserting that everyone in that room (speaker excluded) had sinned and was deserving of death. Now, we don’t get alot of her reaction to this whole situation, but we can see that Jesus was harsher with the religious people than with the accused.

So, why do we do it backwards nowadays? The claws of the online Christian community are so quick to come out when anyone so much as breathes about a few key topics (abortion and gay marriage both come to mind).  Whenever these things hit the public sphere, I always cringe because I know what’s coming. 500 comments about how we should call “sin” a “sin” and we just want to stand up for what we believe in (the irony being that most of the comment-makers would NEVER have the backbone to say what they say online to an actual person, face to face). We are so quick to identify people by whatever “sin” we think they’re doing is the most terrible.

It’s a bit of a joke. How, on earth, we think that anonymously attacking values and very personal issues that people hold dear will draw them to Jesus is beyond me. The argument I hear most is, “Well, they need to know what I believe! They need to know what God says!”

Believe me. They know. They’ve heard you shouting repeatedly, over and over. It’s time to stop shouting now because that isn’t really working. Let’s use our inside voices, okay?

In the Bible, people outside the normal “religious” culture flocked to Jesus. If we’re truly being Christ-like, then shouldn’t those same outsiders be flocking to the modern Church now?

Newsflash: They aren’t.

The phrase “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” has been running around in my head for several weeks now. I never really understood what that phrase meant, but I think God is starting to show me. Following Jesus is a huge responsibility, a huge commitment. It’s the most important thing I’ll ever do in my life.

I’ve been freaking out a little, wringing my hands, thinking about salvation and sanctification, trying to identify parts of my old self that I’ve tried to keep hidden from Jesus. I tell you what, when you start thinking about things with fear and trembling, there’s not a whole lot of room for judgement of others.

Sorry, Church, but I don’t hear alot of fear and trembling in our online response to issues caught in the crosshairs of the culture wars. What I do see is lots of people strutting around with their thumbs hooked on their suspenders pontificating what’s right and wrong and what God likes and doesn’t like.  I see a whole lot of judgment for people outside the Church and very little, emphasis on VERY LITTLE, accountability for those inside the Church (Hey Church! Wanna talk about pornography addiction, pastor worship, media addictions, divorce, greed, pride, immoral business practices, environmental and financial irresponsibility, consumerism, hypocrisy, faithlessness,  and selfishness?… No? Thought so. Maybe later?)

When we interact with “the world”, we need more fear and trembling- more humility, more patience, more compassion. We need to  be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Paul tells us to stand firm in our convictions (in our faith), a phrase which has nothing to do with loudly proclaiming  “who is a sinner and who is not” and everything to do with knowing who God is and what He has offered us, what we have been offered despite our shortcomings.

I have to think that Jesus was serious when He said the following:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles and aggressively comment on articles about gay marriage and loudly support Chic-fil-a and have bumper stickers about abortion and loudly support Phil Robertson and loudly withdraw our support of World Vision?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7)

This is a serious issue. If outsiders are not drawn to the grace and mercy of Jesus in us (ahem, they are not), then we’re probably not treating this whole faith thing with the proper amount of fear and trembling.

I would hate for us to get to heaven and hear Jesus say, “I never knew you” and to have the gates of heaven shut in our faces. Because, then, no matter how loudly we proclaim that we “stood for what we believed in”, no one will be listening.

Jesus, give us a sense of the seriousness and humility it requires to follow you. Help us work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Help your Church to know how to truly be Christ-like. Lord, help us all.


(If you’re interested in reading more in the Fight the Pharisee series, please check out the rest here.)

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