The Pharisees in Jesus’ time appeared to be doing all the righteous things and obeying all of the Old Testament laws and for the most part they were. But Jesus condemned them because in the midst of all of their religious “doings” and adherence to strict Old Testament laws, they had forgotten the things that Jesus considered most important. Things like love, compassion, mercy and servanthood.
Here is a strong word from Jesus about “appearing” religious. It is from the Message version of the Bible and comes under the heading “Religious Fashion Shows:”
1-3 “Now Jesus turned to address his disciples, along with the crowd that had gathered with them. "The religion scholars and Pharisees are competent teachers in God's Law. You won't go wrong in following their teachings on Moses. But be careful about following them. They talk a good line, but they don't live it. They don't take it into their hearts and live it out in their behavior. It's all spit-and-polish veneer.”
I need to pray that I might never be more concerned about LOOKING religious than BEING like Jesus. Jesus was all about loving people, not condemning them. He didn’t just feel sorry for people’s circumstances. He did something to help them. He was quick to forgive people for their wrong doings and he never put himself “above” others, yet He served them. It is easy for us to act like Pharisees when we are more concerned about going to church, memorizing scripture and always being sure we come across as the ultimate Christians than we are for saving lost people, helping the poor and down-trodden and forgiving those who have hurt us.
While we never want to abandon our Christian principles and our devotion to the Bible and Church, we must be careful that people see us first and foremost as people who love and accept others. I know I am sometimes guilty of judging people because I don’t think they live up to the Christianity I have been taught and that kind of thinking has, no doubt, caused me lose an opportunity to introduce Jesus to someone who needs Him.
Several times through the years I have asked people to church and they have said something to the effect that they don’t come to church because the church is full of hypocrites. My answer usually has been: “Well, I’m sure there are some hypocrites in church, but what better place for them?” Another answer comes to me: “You are right about that, but mostly our church is just full of sinners, like me! Won’t you join us?”
As Christians we need to stand up for the things we know are biblically right, but we also need to love those who don’t share all of our convictions! God, help me to be that kind of Christian and not look like a Pharisee!