Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee
Have you ever looked up to a pastor or teacher, wishing you could be as good a Christian as they appeared to be? Perhaps you are the one whom others admire, hoping to be more like you in their Christian walk.
In Jesus’s day, people admired the Pharisees as being highly spiritual. But Jesus knew better.
The Pharisees did not start out as bad guys. When the ancient Israelites returned to their land after the Babylonian captivity, the religious leaders determined not to give God another reason to displace them. The exile was a judgment on the nation because of their sins against God, especially the sin of idolatry.
As a result, the Pharisees taught the people the dangers of idolatry and the need to obey all of God’s Law. But as the years passed, their desire to be seen doing right things became more important to them than being in a right relationship with God.
It’s tempting for me to reduce the Christian walk to a list of dos and don’ts. After all, the Lord is holy and requires His people to be holy. As I look around our culture, I have to fight the urge to expect people to change their behavior on their own. A part of me is surprised when unbelievers behave like unbelievers! But change does not begin on the outside and move to within. True change begins from within, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
So when I speak truth but not with love, I’m no better than the Pharisees of Jesus’s day. When I seek to uphold God’s Word, but do it without compassion for people, again, I’m no better than the Pharisees. And when I expect people to change their behavior without experiencing the new birth that brings a change of heart . . . yup, a Pharisee.
There’s nothing holy about pride in my own holiness. Holiness is not about doing; it is about being. It begins with the changes that come from surrendering to the Lord’s leading. A life of holiness is not a performance. It is our “thank You” to the One who is holy and who gives us the power to become more like Christ with each new day.
My name is Ava, and I’m a recovering Pharisee.
(Adapted from Reflections on the Names of God: 180 Devotions to Know God More Fully.)