We’re now halfway through this series. This is the turning point. Step 6 is the step that most closely resembles an original step in Alcoholics Anonymous. The first five steps have to do with admitting there is a problem — that things have gotten out of our control and we need help. The last seven steps have to do with what to do about that.
But before we move on, something needs to be said about admitting there is a problem. If you don’t think you’re a Pharisee, then you probably are one. If you don’t think these Catches apply to you, then you had better start paying closer attention. It all starts with you, not anyone else. The minute you feel any kind of teaching or rebuke doesn’t apply to you is the minute you have to realize that it probably does.
Like the cartoon June sent us that has an older woman talking with her husband: “Earl, would you say I’m judgmental?”
“Uhh …” he says. And before he can decide whether or not he wants to answer that question, she answers it herself.
“I mean, I hope I’m not. I don’t like people who are judgmental. But I’m pretty sure that I’m not. Because I can tell people who are judgmental just by looking at them.”
There’s no way anyone is beyond judging, beyond rationalization, beyond thinking their sin is not as bad as someone else’s, beyond lowering others in their own mind so as to elevate themselves, beyond rejoicing over someone else’s moral breakdown that makes them look pristine in comparison, beyond nailing someone else for judging as they are guilty of the same thing. You don’t even have to be a Christian to engage in these attitudes. It’s human nature. That’s why religion always tends toward legalism. I would venture to say that every religion has its Pharisees — even those without any religion at all.
You have to see this before you can get help. And how do you get help? You throw yourself at the mercy of God, alone. You can’t add anything to this; you can only bring yourself to God and have Him tend to you. Only He can remove those pharisaical robes that stick to us like a second skin. Only He can put His Spirit within us to replace these attitudes with humility, respect, and genuine mercy toward others as grace has been extended to us.
Admittedly, this is a painful process. You don’t just shake off pride and self-righteousness; you have to have them stripped away, usually through some life-changing experience like Paul on the way to Damascus, or Peter in denial, or Jonah in the belly of a whale, or John and Marti, watching and participating with Chandler as with the peeling away of an artichoke, the peeling away of layers that expose fresh pain along with hope for new growth.