Jesus and the Pharisees

I am grieved whenever I read a Christian blog and find whole-group condemnation. No love, no invitation, no healing, no compassion – simply exclusion, anger, and judgment.

How can we as Christians pick and choose which of Jesus’ commands to follow? How can we as Christians justify ignoring Him because it’s uncomfortable? Because we think He would be pleased with our “passion?” Because we’ve decided we’re doing His work?

Why is it we think we can choose to ignore “Love your enemy” because our emotions have become a stumbling block? Since when is it okay to withhold compassion from those we hate or disapprove of? How is it we can decide our enemies are not worthy of saving when God wants to save everyone?

God is so real and tangible and we are killing Him. We do Him such a disservice. We tell people how much we hate them and about all of His rules. We use our Bibles as weapons. We use our Bibles to justify our hatred. For God’s sake, be Jesus. BE HIM. Melissa Presser, Work for the Cause, Not the Applause

Matthew ©The Bible Miniseries

Matthew
©The Bible Miniseries

We know the Pharisees were the enemies of Jesus. We know Jesus called out the Pharisees. Did he call them out to shame them and embarrass them? Did he call them out to convince others to hate them? Did he call them out with hatred and anger in his heart? Did he tell any of his followers to hate them or cast them aside? Or did he call them out with love in the gracious hope their hearts would be transformed?

In fact, Jesus formed individual relationships with Pharisees. He had dinner with Simon where he taught humility, acceptance and love. (Luke 7:36-50)

He met with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus suspected Jesus was the true Messiah, was drawn to him and wanted to learn more. (John 3:1-6)

At this time, Israel’s Roman occupiers have given a small group of Sadducees and Pharisees limited powers to rule, and Nicodemus is one of the Pharisees. He holds a seat on the ruling council known as the Sanhedrin, and surprisingly Nicodemus is among those who seek Jesus for His teaching. It appears that he believes more about Jesus than he wants others to know, so he comes at night. (The Voice, John 3:2 note)

While Jesus may or may not have met personally with Joseph of Arimathea, all four gospel writers record Joseph’s attachment to Jesus. Joseph, like Nicodemus, was a member of the Sanhedrin. Joseph disagreed with the vote to cast Jesus as a blasphemer. He became a follower of Jesus who used his own money to claim Jesus’ body and bury him in his own tomb. (Matthew 27:57, Mark 15:43, Luke 23:50-52, John 19:38)

Let’s not forget Saul of Tarsus with whom Jesus formed the most famous of relationships. Saul was a passionate hater of Christ followers. He approved of the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of the faith. He sought and received permission from the High Priest of the Sanhedrin to hunt down and arrest those who followed Jesus. On his way to Damascus to do just that, the resurrected Jesus surrounded him in blinding light. Jesus changed Saul’s heart and mind, and he turned his passion to preaching the gospel of Christ’s love instead of hate. (Acts 9:1-20)

Eventually, Saul’s name was changed to Paul. This apostle brought many to Christ’s love throughout the Eastern world, and wrote thirteen books of the New Testament. But initially, Saul was not accepted by the original apostles. They knew of his past and knew him only as a persecutor. They did not trust him and wanted nothing to do with him. They did not believe he had been transformed by Jesus himself. But another follower – Barnabas – whom the apostles called “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36), spoke up for Saul.

Through love, Barnabas affirmed Saul’s new heart. Through love, Barnabas gave Saul a second chance. Through love, Barnabas ensured Saul was welcomed. Through love, Barnabas assured the apostles did not act as a stumbling blocks to the saving of Saul.

Even though Matthew was not a Pharisee, he was a tax collector, hated and vilified by his neighbors. They considered him an enemy. He was unwelcome in the temple and at the table. Prayer and food. Human staples. Until the love of Jesus came along.

To be like Jesus, we must not be stumbling blocks to the saving of others, whether you like them or not.

Jesus linked anger to murder.

You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, “Do not murder.” I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill. (The Message, Matthew 5:21-22)

What have you called people or groups of people? Evil? Idiot? Stupid? Think this only applies to believers?

If we are all God’s creation, then He is our Father. All of us. And we are ALL brothers and sisters.

Like it or not.

43 comments

  1. Great post & something for all of us to think about Susan. It seems to be our tendency to look at others in a critical way almost as a default setting in our minds. I know this is something I have to regularly work on. One thing I often come across is Youtube discussions on Christian videos. I often see Christians getting into discussions/arguments with atheists & so often things turn nasty & the Christians become just as rude & insulting as those they are debating with. It makes me sad to see the bad reputation this brings upon Christians

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    1. Absolutely, Tony. And when we do that, we lose our credibility and our right to spread the gospel. Too sad, really.

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  2. Truth, Susan. Always needs saying and you said it.

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    1. Means so much from you. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Susan.x

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  3. Amen! I’ve been through ‘most all churches and have yet to find one that can resist making rules in the form of rules of one or another. It is not just disappointing, it is spiritual rape.

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    1. A agree, churches have done some awful things, Susan. What we need to latch onto moving forward is the question of just how do we begin to transform them? How do we pray for and love the people who thought they were doing the right thing and fold them into the grace and mercy of Jesus while at the same time reaching out to those who have been disenfranchised and wrap our arms around them?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is what I’ve been doing. I felt weird at first, but it is becoming the natural thing to do.

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      2. Yea! It does become natural as we give up control and allow the Spirit to work in us. Love that!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It is life-giving and less stress.

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  4. I love this, it’s so pure, like walking on snow. I feel like screaming, What the heck is wrong with all you people wake up!!! Today’s scripture reading reminded me of this, the most important of the commandments. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. I don’t doubt we as Christians love God, I think we tuned out when Jesus started talking about that second commandment. If you don’t get there, I don’t care about how long you went to seminary or what a great bible teacher you are. Get over yourself, you have missed the mark completely! The world sometimes makes better Christians than we do. End rant.

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    1. I know, right? But even us, Melissa – we’re all for grace unless it’s for the people we disagree with. We all have to find it in our hearts to find a way to give grace to “them,” whoever our individual “thems” are. We all have to be the good Samaritans. I’m not saying it’s easy – it’s just our job. We all have to take a breath and put on our big girl pants (or our communion veils) and understand we don’t have to be in a building on Sunday to be in the presence of God.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes definitely. God, He is everywhere!!!

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  5. I have always taken a closer look at myself when I hear these words. That being said. I would think one of the reasons I feel this way about certain folks I might disagree or dislike is. I would have to change. Thinking about that a little bit as the Holy Spirit stirs it around a bit. That means I would have to admit I have fault. That would also lead to the fact that after I tried to deal with these folks for a while I would come to the conclusion that I couldn’t fix them.not me them.get it. Well that would draw my final conclusion, when I was ready to listen to God while I was whining about these folks that were such a mess and I had tried time and again to reach then prayer ect. The Holy Spirit always says to Tom. Dear Tom if you would spend more time with me and in my word.You would know I have to do this work not you. Want you let me have it and just show the fruits of my spirit while your waiting on me. Just my thinking my dear sweet Susan. PS nailed me right between the eyes.

    Much love Tom

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    1. “I would come to the conclusion that I couldn’t fix them. The Holy Spirit says, ‘I want you let me have them and just show the fruits of my spirit while you are waiting on me.'”

      Yep, you nailed it right there, Tom. 😀

      I always love it when you come around and tell the truth in such a humble, straightforward way.

      Thank you, my friend. I am so blessed to know you, my sweet brother. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. What a gorgeous post, Susan! And such gorgeous comments!

    The word “belonging” came to mind. How we grow up “belonging” to a group by pushing others away. A particular memory of our own (younger) daughter and her friends comes back very vividly. And of how we are taught to fit-in and not rock the boat.

    As I grow closer in Him, I find that I need to fit-in less and less. Yet in “fitting-in” less and less, I seem to “fit in” more and more across all groups and labels.

    Never thought about it that way before!! Thank you ((hugs))

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    1. Absolutely, Paul – I think our “natural inclination is to belong by pushing others away. That’s why it’s so very important to allow the Spirit full reign. The only belonging and fitting we truly need is the family of creation – the one where God is our Father. When that is our belonging, everyone is our brother, everyone is our sister, and labels are no long necessary. Great thought! 🙂 Hugs back all around.

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      1. Loving the hugs!! 🙂

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  7. Susan – oh my. What a brilliant post. I am still soaking it all in.

    This question got me: “Or did he call them out with love in the gracious hope their hearts would be transformed?”

    How often do we truly examine our motives when we look to and at others? When we cast aspersions, judgments, and “gotcha” verses? Are we not elevating ourselves and demeaning them? It’s no wonder more and more people are becoming atheists, because if they are looking to Christians to see Christ, then they don’t want anything to do with Him. Oh how sad for them (and for us) to miss out on Him because of our weakness, pride, and condemnation.

    Jesus is LOVE. Plain, simple love. His motives were always pure. He wanted changed hearts and transformed lives.

    Our world is saturated in hate, in the US vs THEM mentality. Why are we so caught up in the supposed “THEM” anyway? Why aren’t we focused on Him? Truly, the more of Him we have in “US”, the more of “THEM” will come to Him.

    If we show LOVE, we show Jesus.

    Thank you so much, Susan. I am beyond “wow”.

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    1. Wow on my end, Heather. Your comment adds so much to this post. ❤

      I truly do think we chase people away from God, away from Jesus with our battle cry, and forget, as Mel said, our battle is not with people.
      We need to embrace, show compassion, invite, and love. It's only when we open our arms the dividing, the "us vs. them" will stop.
      We have a long way to go, but it starts with me.

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  8. I would echo the sentiments of the other comments and add that our enemy is not flesh and blood but principalities and powers of darkness–not people, ideologies, political parties, lifestyles, etc. We can love and accept all people where they are while not necessarily condone what they’re doing, remembering it’s the goodness and kindness of God that leads to repentance, not our vitriol and hatred. Jesus changed everything.

    Really good stuff, Susan! 🙂 Blessings.

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    1. Amen, Mel, and excellent Scripture reference. Too often we get on our “high horse” about an issue or group of people. I think if we’d take the time to look down, we’d discover it’s a hobby horse made of wood, just like the idols of the OT.

      Great to have you contribute, Mel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Bradley Jersek has written an excellent book on this subject called, “A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel.”

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      2. Okay, another book I have to download onto Kindle! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  9. The True Light! · ·

    This is “spot on” as they say! We cannot harbor ill-will toward any person or group to the point of excluding them from salvation’s prayer. And we cannot pick and choose which commands of the Lord we follow. It’s an all or none proposition. Good post!

    Steve

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    1. Thank you, Steve. All too often we isolate people because they have a different opinion, or we perceive them to be our “enemy.” We simply can’t if we’re to follow the teachings and wishes of Jesus.

      Thanks so much for your comment, and have a peace-filled weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The True Light! · ·

        And you enjoy your weekend too, Susan! Thanks so much for your thoughts and support here. I support much of what I’m reading on your site and am glad we are sharing…

        Steve

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      2. Me, too, Steve. Planting seeds, praying they grow. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The True Light! · ·

        That’s what we do as His servants! Pray they grown in fertile soil and will last and thrive…

        Steve

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  10. That’s good stuff Susan. it’s so hard to balance sometimes that proper mix of love and yet earnestly contending for the faith as we are instructed. I thank God daily for sisters like you who help improve the perspective of people like me

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    1. Oh, Wally, your words mean so much. Thank you. Hourly reminders. Always in love. I’ve needed them myself. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Jesus walked IN LOVE, Susan. If we who Love Him, or say we do, we need to follow His example by LOVING ALL. It is sad to say, but I overall avoid heavily “religious” blogs due to the lack of Love I both see and feel. In order for Love to grow in this world, it starts firstly with us, and then we Love those around us. Actions speak a whole lot louder then words do and this is the way I walk, my friend. I don’t preach. I don’t push anything on anyone. I just LOVE. Period. Bless you for posting this. It needs to be heard by ALL. (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

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    1. Thank you, Amy. I think there is a groundswell of those of us who follow the true heart of Jesus working at getting his words out.

      Too often, in the name of “religion,” we Christians misuse the Bible and use it as a weapon. It was never intended to be that. It was never intended to shame people or beat them into following rules.

      Jesus came to do the opposite. He cut away those chains. He formed relationships. He loved people first. He got to know individuals – their sorrows, their hurts, their agony. Only after that he told them to sin no more – and when they were awash in love, their desire was to lead upright lives. Somehow, our Western world has got it backwards. It doesn’t work backwards. Only from love forwards.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh wow, I could not agree with you more. It begins and ends with LOVE. It is not only Christians who misuse Scripture, Susan. This problem is seen in many religions and unfortunately, people are being led by the nose and in so doing, prejudice is born, hatred is fanned, and anti-LOVE is promoted. I’ve had a special relationship with Jesus since a child, and even as a child I went up against those in the “church” questioning and saying this is not right because God is LOVE and Jesus would never do something like this! I was VERY punished, believe me, and then I became quiet until my Senior year in high school when I became infuriated with a priest who was teaching “wrong”. That man failed me deliberately (I was an A student) because I dared to argue with him and tell him he was wrong. I stay far away from organized religion and have learned instead to walk LOVE through the Guidance of He whose Voice I know. I applaud you, my friend, for being so bold as to step forth to say what you are. I deliberately stay away from religion and politics because I do not wish to start any kind of fighting with anyone, and believe me, I would IF I said what was on my mind about some things. I use the back door, as quiet as a mouse as I continue to speak Truth on Petals, and bring Beauty that only God makes. I have so much respect for you right now, Susan. Good for you for standing your ground! I am really proud of you!!! (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

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      2. Oh, Amy, thank you SO much. Tears. Heart swelling.

        Please go to my tab on top that says, Church Set Free. I think you’re in great company.

        Bless you, my friend. I will email you more this weekend.

        Love, love, love you! (and still loving my heron!) ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      3. SO glad you have your Heron. I still have what you sent and it is in my drawer, not going anywhere. 🙂 Remember that when you add and subtract. LOL ❤

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  12. Could use more love and less hate. 🙂

    Good post.

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    1. Absolutely. Thanks.

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  13. Well written and – well said – 🙂

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  14. The best way to transform someone, to win hearts and minds, is to show them love and understanding. To try to persuade them through example as well as words. Anyone who hates is not following Jesus’s example or counsel. It is interesting to me that this is now common, since growing up in the Catholic tradition, there was no exclusion. I don’t remember people excoriating any other religion. It was more that other religions supposedly missed the mark, but not that those people were wrong or to be shunned. The first time I encountered this kind of thinking was when an Evangelical pastor in NJ told me that Catholics were not Christians, when I was 17. That was a revelation to me as, for all its shortcomings, rejection or hatred were just not heard in my church at all.

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    1. Absolutely, Beth. Whether Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Baptist, etc… I am certain Jesus did not foresee these divisions based on human interpretation of his words. He preached love and unity to glorify God, to bring peace and conviction into our lives.

      Huge difference between conviction (self) and condemnation (us and them). One comes through love and understanding; the other comes through accusation, shame and guilt. If God is love, who is fear? Who is hate? Who is rejection?

      Thank you as always for your insightful contribution.

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