Have you noticed that when we read the Bible in snippets we get a very different view of Jesus than when we read his words in their entirety? It isn’t that reading in snippets is wrong necessarily. It is just that most of our tried and true Jesus stories leave out his hardest and most puzzling statements. I have realized in the last few years how much harder Jesus is than I previously realized.
By nature I am a rule follower. I like to pretend I am a rebel, but the truth is I don’t really buck authority. I think part of what first appealed to me about Christianity was the order and morality of it all. I was raised to be a good girl, and a good girl I have mostly been. Even in my non “good girl” phase, I could still look around me and take comfort in the fact that I was still behaving morally superior to most of the people around me.
But the thing about Jesus that has thrown me for a loop lately is that his harshest words aren’t for the sinners. Don’t get me wrong, he calls a sin a sin. He tells sinners to stop sinning and live their lives in ways that honor God. But his strongest words, some of the hardest to swallow, are to the religious people of his day.
It is easy to look at the Pharisees as an “other.” They are so pious. They keep trying to corner Jesus and trap him with his words. THEY are trying to kill our gentle Lord and Savior. But here is the truth I have come to believe:
If we don’t see ourselves in the Pharisees, we are reading it wrong.
I can so easily recognize sin in others. Sometimes gleefully so. I can so quickly jump on a religious soapbox during every manufactured Christian controversy Facebook throws in my feed. And there is a new one every. single. day. We Christians love to pull out the “hate the sin, love the sinner” phrase, but I think if we examined our hearts, we would see there is a part of us that is “hate the sin, feel superior” to the sinner.
Not all of us of course. Many of us still see ourselves as broken sinners so desperately in need of saving grace. But sometimes we seem to forget how big God’s grace really is. And we think somewhere deep inside that our sin deserves his grace a little more than someone else’s sin that seems so much worse in our made-up hierarchy.
At the end of the day it is sometimes easier to rest in our own ability to keep the rules better than someone else. There will always be someone sinning more, sinning worse or sinning more often. And that is a much easier pill to swallow than knowing that I am a broken messed up sinner so desperately in need of saving. Because what Jesus knew, and what his words so clearly show us, is this—until we realize how dangerous the sin of pride and self-sufficiency are, we can never truly know Him. Maybe if we spent a little more time pondering the sin in that, we would have far less time to point our judging finger at others.