Posts Tagged ‘rules’

Beware the Yeast of the Pharisees

November 16, 2016


Still considering Jesus’ seemingly off-hand comment “Watch out–beware the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of the Herodians.”

Reporters didn’t follow Jesus around recording every word he said in hope of a “gotcha” moment where they could make him look bad. That type of “journalism” (and I use the word loosely) only happened recently in history.

No, the gospel writers took these little vignettes and recorded them because they moved their stories forward. So consider that whenever they record a comment, it is important.

So, we were looking at the spiritual meaning of the sentence, since Jesus obviously points us to the spiritual significance later.

Considering we–as in each one of us–are the “dough” in the story. And consider that yeast is a reactive agent that enters the dough, permeates throughout it, and then creates a chemical and physical change in the dough.

As we are the dough, and we are to beware letting the “yeast” of the Pharisees into us, then what does that mean?

Let’s look at how the Pharisees are represented in the gospels. They are rule followers. Empty on the inside. Remember the metaphor of the cup–clean on the outside and corroded on the inside?

Or seekers of loopholes–that is how all of us rule-followers are. How can we make the rules favor us rather than someone else?

Or lovers of comparison. “Lord, I thank you that I am not like that sinner over there.”

When we allow these thoughts and attitudes to permeate us, then our entire being is changed.

We are no longer kind, empathetic, loving, serving people of God–the sort of people who inherit the Kingdom. We become negative, cynical, separate, hard-hearted.

Perhaps we think back to Paul’s description of people of the flesh and people of the spirit in Galatians. Which do we want to be? Beware the yeast of the Pharisees lest it change your character!

The Only Thing That Counts

November 9, 2016

You know the type. We all know the type. Unless you are that type, then maybe you don’t recognize it at least in yourself.

One kid like this exists in every classroom. At least one kid. And in church… sometimes an entire church is filled with them. And in other organizations, as well. And in families.

That is the person who knows all the rules. And follows them. To the letter. Other kids in school hate that kid. Or, at least they don’t like them too much. These people love to point out to everyone else what the rules are. “You’re not supposed to do that.” Or “I’ll tell the teacher.” Or “You’ll roast in hell for doing that.”

The Apostle Paul started some fellowships of Jesus-followers in what today we call central Turkey. These were loving, joyous, givingĀ  communities.

Then some strangers rode into town. They taught that these people needed to follow the law before they could be so joyous and loving. In fact, maybe it breaks the laws to actually be joyous and loving.

The particular law that those ancient teachers brought to the people in Galatia was the law of circumcision. They taught that first you had to earn the right to know God, and only then could they call themselves followers.

Paul told his friends that listening to that teaching would end their freedom in Jesus. He said that as soon as you follow one law, then you have to follow all the laws. Except he had already taught them that following all the laws in order to earn God’s favor was impossible. That’s why Jesus came–lived, died, and then lived again.

Paul said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith made effective through love.”

Paul just taught what Jesus taught, “You’ll know my followers by their love.”

We need fewer “Church Ladies” and more followers. Can we ditch the rule following bias we have and just open ourselves up to finding the freedom to act in love? “Against such there is no law.”


How To Achieve Unity

October 5, 2015

Paul (the apostle) tried very hard to promote unity in the early church. Every thing was so new. They were figuring out things as they went. Paul was not the only evangelist. There were many. They didn’t always agree.

I started thinking about this during today’s message at church. I know, thinking in church is even worse than thinking in school, but I do that anyway.

What about within a congregation? That is mostly what Paul was addressing. 

There seem to be two ways to achieve unity in a congregation (or any smaller organization).

One way would be to reduce the size of the organization. Let those who disagree with the majority or leader or whatever move on. Perhaps the leader intentionally encourages them to move on. Perhaps they just don’t feel welcomed.

I’ve been around the block a couple of times. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon. Eventually you get a group that agrees or silently goes along. Therefore, we’ve achieved a kind of unity.

Seems to me there is another way. I think I’ve been influenced by Paul and James, but mostly by Jesus.

We need to focus on the core beliefs. There are opinions that are just not going to be agreed upon by everyone. That’s life.

In a church, the core belief agreed to by all denominations is the belief that Jesus lived, he died, and he was resurrected. 

Some go searching the scriptures for all manner of rules to follow. Or odd quotes to pull out to reinforce prejudices. It’s when we place those rules above the gospel that we get into trouble.

It’s like a dear old Baptist lady who bought her new Catholic friend  a Bible. She thougtht she would look inside the Catholic Bible to see what it was. She was astounded to discover that it was the same as hers.

We can build on that unity by emphasizing the core beliefs upon which we are agreed. Then remember and practice the continual injunctions in the New Testament about love. Then reach out beyond cultural and doctrinal divides.

They Made Their Own Rules

August 11, 2015

Ever play games with children?

They are always making up rules. Often they change the rules arbitrarily. They change the rules to put themselves at an advantage.

Thoughts of this behaviour came to mind as I was meditating on Romans 10. “For being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness.”

At the time Paul wrote this, Jewish religious leaders and teachers had managed to take ten commandments of God and turn them into an incredibly complex set of rules designed to put them at an advantage. They could then condemn others for not following all the rules.

Jesus blasted that idea. He taught that what is most important is what’s in your heart. If your heart is in a right relationship with God, you’ll do what’s right. Trying to live by following a rigid set of rules leads to a life of slavery or hopelessness. It also leads to a life of comparison. It breeds the “I’m better than you, and you’re going to hell” <snicker>. 

Andy Stanley’s current Your Move series is titled Christian. The premise is that since “Christian” is not defined in the Bible, you can make it whatever you wish. But the word Jesus used, disciple, is a word easily defined.

Beyond that, Stanley has been asking, “Do you know any angry, judgemental Christians who seem to derive pleasure by thinking you’re going to hell”?

Of course, the answer is Yes.

The Roman Catholic church has tons of rules. Each protestant denomination seems to have its own set of rules different, of course, from anyone else’s set of rules. Everyone make up rules.

Even today.

Even while saying they are following the guy who said to worry about the condition of your heart first.

Back to Paul. They made their own set of rules, just like children do. And they lost.

It’s not rules, it’s relationship.