Monday, July 6, 2009

The Pharisaical Christian’s Stumbling Block

Christianity gets a bad rap for many reasons, but one particular reason plays right into Satan’s hands. He loves it when a Christian discredits Christ (which we’re all prone to do). This can be done in one of at least two ways (though I’m sure there are more) but the main focus here is on the latter failing.

Way number one: the passive way to discredit Christ is to live as a worldly person where being ‘a Christian’ makes no difference in our life. There’s no Christian fruit of the Spirit that’s remarkable. There’s no radical love.

Way number two: the active way to discredit Christ is to be legalistic, harsh and argumentative on standards, nitpicking on theological grains of sand. Many Christians who do this cannot see their lack of love and compassion for other people, made also in the image of God, or begin to understand the context of their circumstances.

They fight over truth but forget grace--the keystone meaning of the gospel message. The gospel doesn’t work without grace. How can we argue persuasively for truth and forget we’re supposed to be underpinned by love?

These latter people often prove totally ineffective in evangelism, but not only that, they blaspheme the name of Christ for they are actually witnesses of something other than true Christianity. Perhaps they more rightly represent a pharisaic (one person) sect calling Christ leader, though Christ is rendered ineffective--the Spirit vanished long ago.

So where do we go?

It’s always a good thing to go back to Jesus’ example of radical compassionate love, especially to those in his midst who had the worst problems.

I hardly think it was a coincidence that Jesus’ radical compassion is linked with his comment that the (Christian) workers are few:

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’ –Matthew 9:36-38 (NIV).
We should pray that there might be capable and compassionate evangelists and (effective) witnesses to the kingdom’s glory. There seems to be so few true shepherds and so many blind guides, at least in ordinary life.

I’m sure some people just don’t get it. A Christian is not supposed to not love. Playing that out consistently--day in, day out--I’m sure, is the hardest thing we’ll ever try. But with God it’s made quite easy as we learn to continually surrender our heart and will. And that is faith.

It is nothing we bring to the party but our willingness to totally cooperate with God. And most people (including many, many ‘Christians’) don’t like that.

Don’t like it? Complain to God. On second thoughts, it would be easier to get used to the fact that our peace and happiness is dependent on our relationship of surrender to God. We cannot espouse the Bible without accepting this basic truth.

The workers are few. The key is, are we one of them? Compassion, patience and understanding are required in relationships, not self-righteousness or truth at any cost.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

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