Tuesday, October 14, 2008

IOW: Overcoming the Pharisee Within

Amy is hosting In Other Words at her site In Pursuit of Proverbs 31. If you want to participate, write a blog about the quote in the box below on your site then click on the link to Amy's blog and leave your URL in the Mr. Linky box. You will also find links for the other participants' blogs.

"A pharisee is hard on others and easy on himself, but a spiritual man is easy on others and hard on himself." ~A.W. Tozer~
Discipleship training is so important for people young in their walk with Christ. A spiritually mature Christian's perspective is crucial in helping a new Christian sift through all the doctrine preached, i.e. lifestyle choices (clothing, to watch movies or not, etc.), to get to the real meat of walking with the Lord.
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith...forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth...If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness." --1 Timothy 4:1-7
As a young wife, I went through a time of thinking like a pharisee. Although I had been a believer for eight years, I had never had my faith stretched or challenged. My husband's military career moved us all over the country and to many different churches. I was raised in a church that taught the freedom a believer has through grace.

But for several years, while seeking out Bible-teaching churches, we ended up in congregations that tended to focus on works more than grace. This wasn't so overt that it was easily detected. And there lies the danger -- are we being taught to love others while hating sin, or to focus so much on the sin we can't see the person in need of help in growing in grace, or the person in need of a Savior?

It took a hard lesson for me to realize how much of a pharisee I had become.

I called my parents' North Carolina home from our home in Mississippi one day. My then-18 year old sister answered. During the ensuing conversation I found out that she was going through one of the biggest trials of her life. She was unmarried and expecting a baby in a couple months.

She hadn't let anyone tell me because of my previous "holier than thou" behavior concerning loud opinions on everything from bathing suits to short hairstyles. She "was afraid I would judge her and hate her" for her mistaken choices.

That conversation was a turning point in my life. I realized that I was reflecting the doctrines of whatever church I was attending instead of reflecting the love and grace of Christ.

It took me years to get to the place where I can look at the person beneath the outer appearance. I still fight the pharisee within when I see someone in obvious rebellion against his or her Creator.

I have to remind myself--
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." --Romans 5:8

"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. --Ephesians 4:32
I want to be the person who makes others feel safe and loved--
"Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away." ~George Eliot~
Believers, we have the responsibility to see through Love's eyes.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." --John 15:12

"Let us look at our own shortcomings and leave other people's alone; for those who live carefully ordered lives are apt to be shocked at everything and we might well learn very important lessons from the persons who shock us. Our outward comportment and behavior may be better than theirs, but this, though good, is not the most important thing: there is no reason why we should expect everyone to travel by our own road." ~Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)~


Esthermay Bentley-Goossen said...

OH! If we could only see ourselves the way (#1) GOD sees us; and (#2) the way others see us. We'd shape up pretty fast.

Throughout my life I, too, have reflected the doctrines of whatever church I was attending instead of reflecting the love and grace of Christ. It takes maturity (I am, however, NOT old!) :-) and wisdom and discernment and I pray for those qualities in my life. There will never be enough GRACE for us in this fallen world!
Happy Tuesday, Friend!

Michelle Bentham said...

Great Word, Patricia. You know the emphasis on Maturity in the Christian life is so evident throughout the New Testament, but so not evidenced in the world of Christian Service. If you have a pulse, a willingness to serve and a profession of faith you can be plugged into any position without so much as a question or a conversation beyond, "You want to volunteer... When can you start?"

We must focus on Christ, point others to Christ and grow in Christ in every way to be effective and to keep ourselves from the prideful piety of the Pharisees. Thanks so much for sharing.

MiPa said...

"I realized that I was reflecting the doctrines of whatever church I was attending instead of reflecting the love and grace of Christ."

I have so often been guilty as charged. Thank you for your post and for the reminders to focus on how God sees the situation, not through our own selfish eyes.

Lynnette Kraft said...

It's funny because I think self-righteous Christians start out being sincerely concerned about others - there just seems to be a point where a change happens and a self-righteous attitude takes over.

Churches are biblical and needed...and unfortunately full of flawed people.

Have you ever noticed that the people who AREN'T esteemed as being the most "Godly" or as having leadership qualities, are often the ones who are the closest to God and the most capable of leading?

Oh what a day it will be when we enter heaven's gates!

Your post was great - I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Thanks for sharing!

Denise said...

Such a great take on the quote sweetie.

Karen said...

It's amazing how we look around and in and suddenly we see we have become a Pharisee in our thinking and behavior. How sad. We need to stop and look occasionally to make sure it doesn't happen again!

Ava Semerau said...

Thanks for sharing your story. It hit home with me on a lot of levels.

AVA <><

Denise said...

Thanks for the gentle reminder that our focus needs to be on our relationship - our walk with Christ...not parsing how someone else is walking. Truly, when that realization comes home to our hearts and lives there...we are entering another phase in our Christian journey.

Laurie Ann said...

Awesome quote! I loved what you wrote, "I want to be the person who makes others feel safe and loved--" My heart echoes that prayer. I am posting this quote on a yellow sticky on my wall besdie my desk. Bless you!