Saturday, March 3, 2012

Walking among the Pharisees

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector
  Luke 18:9-14
   To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went upto the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men -- robbers, evil doers, adulterers -- or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
   "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
   "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (NIV)

Many of us do not realize that we are the Phaisees of this story not the humble sinner. We look down on another's sin, but do we recognize our own? I have problems with that. I catch myself doing the things I don't like all the time. If I had to live up to my own standards without fail Whoa Boy! would I be in trouble. Luckily we are all forgiven in Christ of all our sins. We can know that and feel massive relief. I do, and it makes me want to sing. A lot of things make me want to sing. I spontaneously burst out into song, but there again I could just be one of those annoying, happy Christians. Probably so. (He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today...)

Christ has removed our guilt, but the important thing, I think, to truly being washed clean, is repentence -- feeling bad that we commited sins in the first place, acknowledging them and asking forgiveness. It is not required for salvation that we recognize every sin individually, but Jesus calls for repentance and warns against self righteousness.

Paul's words, speaking as a sinner forgiven and grateful: 1 Corinthians 4:4-5
   My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will recieve his praise from God. (NIV)

Paul did write in the same letter not to associate with the believer who sins greatly (Paul lists some examples). This is to correct the one who has sinned, but he does not mention the everyday sins we humans can't seem to avoid. Or even of the ones we could avoid but don't -- like skipping church to play golf, or pouting because this friend has an AWESOME pair of shoes and we want them, too. If removal from the church were required for all sins, there would be no church. (Just a lot of people with awesome shoes and nine on Sunday tee times who see no reason to repent because they figure they're lost anyway.)

And then the sinner repents and stops committing the condemning sin. He is to be received again with love and forgiveness. His actions have been neither condoned nor overlooked nor has the sinner repentant been ostracized to the point that he has lost his faith.

2 Corinthians 2:6-8
   The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead,you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. (NIV)

We are all sinners, regardless of how bad we think our sins are. We are all forgiven and can rejoice. (Insert loud chorus of Jesus is a rock, and he rolls my blues away! Bop shoo bop a shoo bop WHOO!) But we are also still flawed and human living in a very human world. We can not escape the nature with which we were born, but with utter dependence on the Holy Spirit for help we can move beyond it to a closer relationship with God, who makes us perfect. But Christ has admonished us not to think ourselves perfect on our own nor that we are qualified to judge others.

Jesus' words: Luke 6:37
   Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. (NIV)

Following this previous reassurance is the passage about first removing the plank from your own eye before helping your brother to remove the speck from his own. I would think a plank in my eye might hit my brother in the head. The Whack! (and following exclamation I will represent here with Ouch! That hurt!) would justify him in not wanting my help thank you very much.

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