I was a quiet kid. I wasn’t worth a hoot at sports. I wasn’t one of the cool kids either. I was as my grandma would say “timid”. I had a tendency to sort of blend into the background. I wasn’t so much a participant as I was an observer. I liked watching people. I guess I was always a bit of a student of human nature. I hadn’t realized that I like to write yet. But, I liked stories. I sometimes made up backstories for people I didn’t know. The old man with one leg was a war hero that lost his leg at Iwo Jima. The guy with the funny accent was a Russian spy. The cute girl in math class was secretly in love with me (rich fantasy life). People and their stories were interesting to me. Some people were colorful bigger than life characters, others not so much. There was one man that caught my attention one summer. Mr Oscar was the grandfather with a kid I sometimes hung out with. Mr Oscar was what I used to call “churchy”. If the church doors were open Mr Oscar was usually there, revival, fundraiser or just normal Sunday service.
Mr Oscar was always in his conservative dark suit with the shiny black shoes somewhere on one of the first three pews. He was always the first one to greet visitors with a smile and let them know that he was on the welcoming committee and sometimes served as deacon. In short he was a pillar of the community. He was quick to volunteer for any job that came up in the church and always brought fried chicken or a cake to the home when someone died in the neighborhood. I sometimes went to mr Oscars house to hang out with his grandson. After a while, one thing I noticed about mr Oscar was that he acted very differently at home than he did outside the home. He was grumpy. He lost his temper with his family. He seemed to want to run the family with an iron fist. He had condescending things to say to his wife. He once grabbed his bible and read the passage to me from Paul where Paul says it’s a disgrace for men to have long hair (my hair was slightly longish). Mr Oscar had underlined it in red ballpoint and had a bookmark in that page. He used the Bible like a hammer to constantly point out to his family members their supposed shortcomings. At home he was quite vocal about a great many things, he absolutely detested anyone that went sunbathing at the beach and bathing suits in general, dresses above the knee and anything sleeveless. He could get in a huff at the drop of a hat and you never knew what would set him off. But the thing that most troubled me was that he seemed to enjoy being cruel. Anything that brought someone pleasure he found a way to take away or make it seem immoral.
I’m not writing this to be judgmental to Mr Oscar. in fact this blog really isn’t about him at at. I’m going to talk about another group of people with a shallow and self serving christianity, the Pharisees. I know you probably think you know everything about this long extinct jewish sect. Don’t stop reading yet. I promise to show you something that you may not have noticed. Jesus had quite a bit to say about them and when Jesus has something to say, we should listen.
I you ask the pastor of the average evangelical church to tell you about the Pharisees he will probably say something like” they were an ancient Jewish sect that were strict observers of the law of Moses and had pretensions of superior sanctity. Jesus used them as an example to us, to not be legalistic and we should be dependent on faith alone for our salvation”. He will also be quite wrong. The truth is that they were the exact opposite of legalists. and this is the reason Jesus had a problem with them. Jesus said, they ignored the “weightier” matters of the law and instead taught minor matters as more important. They also taught their oral traditions as though they were law. Jesus says in Matthew 23:23 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone”. Jesus said they teach for commandments the doctrine of men. Jesus never once attacked the principle that a person is justified by obeying the law of God and he never said we would be justified by faith alone. Deuteronomy 6:25 says “And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.” also Leviticus 18:5 “Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD”. again in Ezekiel 18:9 he says “He that follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD”. Jesus also said Matthew 5:19 “Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven”. The doctrine of faith alone without obedience to God’s law never came out of the mouth of Jesus! Do you think the law has been done away with in this present age? Let me quote two passages from the book of revelation, the very last book of the New Testament and the one that tells us what happens at the very end of the age. “So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17) And again “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. ” (Revelation 14:12). An and means both things.
Having a right relationship with God isn’t just about acting pious just because you believe your faith alone has saved you. it’s about obeying God Because of your faith in him and out of love and compassion for your fellow human, Matthew 22:36-40 says.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
I have nothing to add to that.
Follow My Blog
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox.