Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Pharisee Paradox

CHRISTIAN Bloggers Network has some nearly 8,000 member-contributors on Facebook.  What I’ve occasionally found in looking at what these bloggers write about and the comments that are added under their articles is a lot of vociferous disagreement.  That of itself is certainly fine, but what I find unbecoming is what seems a mood of nastiness (lack of love) in responses, as well as a steady stream of name-calling… including even the reeling out of the name, “Pharisee.”
My wife has remarked again and again over the past year or so about the phenomenon of the ‘issue’ and the ‘behaviour’ that follows and overtakes the issue.  We were unceremoniously treated by an employer at a time when our family was undergoing a great deal of grief (the expected loss of a child), and the issue (of-dispute) that was levelled at me, we found, was no longer relevant; their treatment of us approached abuse when the issue could easily have been resolved given a more reasonable approach.  Their behaviour transcended the issue.  Not unusual in churches, sadly, of course.  But the matter of dealing with the right issue in the wrong way stands.
Clearly the point is, whilst the issue remains the issue, one’s response to the issue becomes the issue.
Likewise, there are theological and other matters that a community like Christian Bloggers Network ought to be able to discuss, respectfully.  The issues we will disagree on.  We all come from such diverse viewpoints.  The trouble with all us Christians is we too easily find God is on our side, not the other person’s.  Yet we all presumably know that God is no respecter of persons.
If we could interact on issues like women in ministry, same-sex marriage, the gun control debate, etc. with respect for each other, the issues would continue to take centre stage.  But what happens too regularly is factions go past the issue, hiding in their theological rhetoric, in attacking other parties.  Where is the love?  Do we imagine texts such as John 13-17 coming into view, especially the command Jesus gives us all to “love one another”?  What would a person think who is yet to believe in our Lord?
We Christians are set apart by faith that makes love possible even when our tolerance is tested.  That’s the hallmark of a hope that gets non-believers wondering “there is something different about this person who calls themselves ‘Christian’.”
Name-calling and disrespectful treatment of persons who have equally strong views they’re courageous enough to write is, I find, itself, a Pharisaic spirit.
The Pharisee paradox adds self-righteousness cloaked as righteousness to highlight an injustice through the use of an injustice.  It’s unbecoming of Christians to do such a thing, yet I know how easily I’m given to self-righteous outrage.  Why we push our hypocrisy so far is bemusing.
We’re all prone to being Pharisees, paradoxically when we’re most passionate to honour our Lord.  Satan loves it.  He loves it when our flesh bends the Spirit out of proportion.  It reminds us that anything good taken too far becomes idolatry.
Could it be that our passions for particular issues approach idolatry?  Do these passions begin to overtake God?

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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