Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Confessions of a Former Pharisee

The longer the live, the more I realize that the adage about the only thing constant is change.  If we don’t change, we also don’t grow.  It’s interesting that our blog this week is about changing our mind, not our heart.  That’s good because only God can change the heart but we can change our minds.  And let me tell you from personal experience, that distance from my head to my heart is usually the hardest and longest trip of all.

I had a professor at Trevecca who never gave me a grade.  That was because I bailed out of his classes twice.  He had this reputation.  The guy was brilliant.  I would start a class and then say NOPE, this is going to kill my GPA and I don’t need this and out the door I’d go.  Nonetheless, he actually influenced me a lot.  Several things he said to me during my interactions with him are things that will never leave me.  One of those things was 

education will change you whether you want it to or not

I realize that the term “social justice” is not the most well liked phrases in certain circles of Christianity.  In others, it is their favorite phrase.  I grew up in the camp where saying social justice was akin to saying you were backslidden.  We firmly rejected eternal security, so being backslidden could be an everyday, even hourly event.  Christians were classified as truly saved or not.  Those who spoke of social justice were in the not category.

Before I go further, let me make sure everyone understands me.  I do believe in salvation through the free gift of God through faith in His son Jesus Christ.  I do not believe that there is anything I can do to earn my salvation nor can I work off my sins.  But I have discovered much to my shock that social justice is not a dirty word.

As I plunged into Old Testament classes and as I plunged into the learning of Hebrew, I discovered a recurrent theme.  God cares about justice.  God cares about how we treat each other.  God wants us to take care of widows, orphans, the outcast, etc.  Then as I took the course in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, from an equally hard professor as the one I would bail out on, I saw that Jesus miracles were not for show – they were to meet the needs of real people.  There were people hungry and Jesus fed them.  There were people marginalized, troubled and in pain, and Jesus healed, delivered and fellowshipped with them.  It was about real people, with real needs.  It wasn’t some super spiritualized event.  It was about people… did you get that?  It was about people.  And it was about justice.  I was shocked!

When I was a girl I would go to the Salvation Army for Sunbeams, Girl Guards and Vacation Bible School.   I’ve written about this before, you can read it here.  I preached my first sermon during Girl Guards one Saturday morning.  I preached on John 3:16 and told my peers “you must be born again.”  I had this self-righteous notion in my head that the Salvation Army had become too liberal and was too concerned about social issues rather than preaching the gospel.  How foolish and arrogant I was for such a youngster.  I think I was about 13.  I remember the leader thanking God for reminding us of His salvation.  I felt so justified in my self-righteousness.  

But isn’t that what the Pharisees did as well?  I was a little Pharisee.

Now I know better.  Now I know that the gospel is also about feeding people, making sure kids don’t go hungry nor do adults, giving a coat that you don’t use anymore so a child or an adult can stay warm, it’s about loving people.  If we could just get that love part right, the preaching of the gospel would be heard.  Social justice is part of the gospel.  I never knew.  I’m no longer a Pharisee now that I know better.

What about you?  Are you a Pharisee? 


David said...

Great message! I thank God, that we can touch people's lives by meeting their basic needs. I also thank God that there is a Gospel of power; without it, the Gospel is tough to preach.

A few years ago I beleonged to a denomination that was all about "not being religious." They wore t-shirts and jeans to Sunday morning services, and the younger ones wore backwards baseball caps. I also attened another denomination at the same time where the men wore suits and ties.

Amazing, even folks can be religious about not being religious!

At one church Brazil we had a Korean woman on our team, and they would not let her on the platform. So she started to pray for the sick in the parking lot. Soon half the church was out there and many got healed.

Joyce Lighari said...

yeah, we do like our religious ruts, don't we?

Tracy said...

I've also frequently found in my life that the longest trip is from my head to my heart.

Your picture of the see saw is great here.

I've found that it's quite easy to fall into the pharisee rut without realizing it. Formula-izing things is just so tempting.