Whether someone reads the teachings of Jesus in the gospels for the very first time, or a person has spent years becoming familiar with what Jesus said and did, it is immediately apparent that Jesus repeatedly extended grace to those who were far from God and he was hardest on the religious leaders of his day. For this reason, the Pharisees have a terrible reputation as opponents of Jesus who were worse than all types of sinners.
In Matthew 23:1-2 we read: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
It’s interesting to me that Jesus instructed his followers to obey the teachings of the Pharisees. Apparently Jesus didn’t have an issue with their beliefs. He had a major problem with their actions. Their words and theirs deeds didn’t line up. On the other hand, Jesus found that the beliefs and actions of sinners were consistent. Although they were living apart from God, they didn’t pretend to be perfect or have it all together. They realized their need for grace, and that’s why he offered it.
What God desires from us is that we are honest with Him, and with ourselves, about how our beliefs and behavior line up and where we fall short. Unlike the Pharisees, God doesn’t want us to pretend that life is perfect or that we have it all together. The goal of Christianity is not our performance and how we measure up. The goal is to live in authentic relationship with Jesus through all the ups and downs, the peaks and valleys of life. Did you catch that? The goal is a dynamic and growing relationship with a person, namely Jesus.
In the Greek language, the word hypocrite was used to describe someone who put on a mask or another persona, like an actor on stage. Jesus used this word to describe the Pharisees since they pretended they didn’t need God’s grace. Unfortunately, church can be a place where people pretend they are someone they are not. Let’s stop pretending. Let’s be honest with ourselves and with God. I will start. I fail often. I need grace often. I need Jesus. How about you?