I have a built-in Pharisee alert that typically sounds off whenever I throw back to the judgmental, condescending, legalistic attitudes that characterized much of my early Christian experience. You may remember I’m a recovering Pharisee, which means I will never stop being one; I will just stop drinking, and it’s a daily challenge. Thank God we only live a day at a time. I could never take on the whole rest of my life.
My Pharisee alert is called Marti, and she sounded off two days ago when she heard the first part of my Catch on Brian Wilson.
Here is the paragraph in question:
We all, when we come to Christ, want to be better people. That’s understandable. And if you want to be a better person, it helps if you hang around other people who want to be better, too, and avoid those who are trapped in the sins and addictions that once trapped you. This makes tons of sense, and to a certain degree — and maybe for a certain period of time — it may be what needs to happen. But it’s where this thinking goes from here that often leads on a very slippery slope to separation, judgment, and bigotry — all the errors of the Pharisees.
Here I‘m basically saying it’s alright to separate yourself from “sinners” — even hang around people who are trying to be better — for a while, until you get your feet on the ground (until you actually are better?) and then you can get back out there with “sinners” as long as you don’t become a Pharisee. Problem is: by then, you will already be one.
I’m basically saying it’s alright to start down the road of being a Pharisee as long as you know when to stop. A few drinks are okay. Any alcoholic knows a few drinks will never be okay. So why should a few hits from the Pharisee bottle be alright?
It’s the whole “better person” idea that is problematic, along with the whole idea of avoiding sinners, as if that would help you avoid sinning.
Marti pointed out to me that she never wanted to be a better person. She knew she was a sinner and she was just glad to be saved and all she wanted to do was tell everyone in the whole world about this so they could be saved too. Being better never entered her mind. It’s only us recovering Pharisees that know all about trying to be better. It is a flawed concept.
We can never be better anyway. We can’t change a hair on our heads. Only God can change us and those changes come by way of the Holy Spirit. And those changes don’t necessarily mean we will be “better.” We will be people with love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness, but not necessarily better. As a matter of fact, as we grow, we will be more and more aware of our sinfulness and need of a savior, not less. A better person doesn’t need a savior. A better person is already a Pharisee.
Therefore, I‘m taking a whole Catch to point this out because if you followed what I said, I started you down the wrong road and I led you astray. Jesus called the Pharisees “blind guides.” I get that now. It’s not good enough to just be a Pharisee, you’ve got to make other Pharisees around you so you can all feel better about it, like a bunch of alcoholics getting it on.
So I am retracting my statement. And if you bought that paragraph, I apologize for leading you astray. Better read this over a few more times and get yourself to your local chapter of Pharisees Anonymous right away.