When I mention the word Pharisee I imagine we get all sorts of bad impressions. If someone were to call us a Pharisee we get all bent out of shape, defensive and try to explain why it is we know that we are not modern day Pharisees. After all, it was the Pharisees that were seen as the chief enemies of Christ while he roamed Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. It was the Pharisees that continually tried to trap Jesus. It was the Pharisees that made up ˝ the Sanhedrin which put Jesus to death. It was many of the Pharisees that kept other NT believers from publicly proclaiming their faith in Christ lest they be cast out of the Synagogues. Christ called them white washed tombs and sons of hell. John called them a brood of vipers. In fact, most Christians probably could not think of a greater insult to their faith, then to be labeled a Pharisee. However, just because we take offense towards those that may label us as such, we have to be certain that their labeling is not without merit. In other words, before quickly defending our position, perhaps we ought to consider whether or not we are indeed being just like the Pharisees.
Typically when one calls us a Pharisee it is because they believe that we are being too legalistic. That is, we are too concerned with what the book says and not concerned enough whether or not we are being loving. The truth is, this has nothing to do with Phariseeism (even if that is what they try to make it be). Look back at Christ’s biggest conversations with the Pharisees and one will see that they actually had major issues with ranking sins. In the “Woes against the Pharisees” in Matt. 23 Christ condemned the Pharisees for being concerned with tithing, even down to the smallest leaf, but left other matters of the law forgotten (Matt. 23:23). Christ goes on to say that they clean the outside of the cup, but leave the inside filthy (Matt. 23:25). That is, they were concerned with sins easily seen by others, but the ones that could be concealed, those were of no importance.
But, perhaps the most telling of these cases against the Pharisees happened when they tried to trap Jesus. They brought to him a woman caught in the very act of adultery (John 8:3). They wanted to see what Jesus would have them do with her. Jesus, looked to the ground and began writing in the dirt, what he wrote no one knows. He then told them that the one of them without sin should be the 1st to cast a stone. From the greatest to the least of them they walked away leaving the woman alone with Christ. Rather than condemning her to a stoning, he told her to go and sin no more. (This was not a condoning of her actions, but a reprieve, a second chance at life). The Pharisees looked down upon her. She was an adulteress. In fact, the sin of adultery was often used by the Pharisees to worst in Israel. (Matt. 21:31-32). But, Jesus treated her like every other sinner, with compassion, mercy, and gentleness.
So, what is our modern day parallel? Today we have sins that “set us off.” We get “fired up” when we hear people speak of certain types of sins. For some, the legalization of abortion has been their hitching post. For 30 years this debate has waged on without God’s word being upheld by the courts. Posts on Facebook, Myspace, twitter, etc clearly show many Christians feel about this particular sin. Some take justice into their own hands and have murdered abortion doctors or bombed abortion clinics. I have often wondered what separates them from the Pharisees who took justice into their own hands in John 8? Others are tied to homosexual rights issue. They spend their days lamenting over the fact that we have legalized marriage in the state of Iowa. They grow increasingly frustrated at the gay and lesbian propaganda on our televisions, internet, radio, and other social media outlets. For the last decade or so the “Day of Silence” has taken place which encourages children to remain silent at school to protest the treatment of gays in America today (this day was this past Friday). The way many Christians today look at homosexuals is not too far removed from how the Simon the Pharisee viewed the sinful woman that washed Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50). They were aghast that Jesus would allow such a sinner to even touch him. Would we react the same way if a known homosexual in the community showed up at our services? Would we be afraid that his/her sins might rub off on us or one of our children? Brethren, God forbid that His children ever behave in such ways!
I have heard Christians state that they wouldn’t want to have a homosexual working for them, but would welcome a person cohabitating with their boyfriend work for them. I have heard Christians state that they would serve a gay couple, but have knowingly and willingly served alcoholics. I have listened to Christians grow frustrated with preachers who insist that the best way to reach a homosexual is with love and understanding, yet when it comes to their own sins that is exactly what they want. Brethren, these things ought not be.
Now, I am in no way condoning any sin (be it homosexuality, alcoholism, abortion, or cohabitation). What I am saying is that we ought to remember whatever that sin may be, everyone of them separates us from God. If you are a liar, you are lost. If you are a thief you are lost. If you are a fornicator your are lost. If you are a murderer you are lost. We are to be more like Christ, our standard for righteousness, not just better in our own eyes than everyone else. -WTK
Grinnell church of Christ
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The Sin of Ranking Sin
Volume 4 Issue 20 April 21, 2013