Even a casual reading of the New Testament is enough to give one a sense that Jesus was (while not soft on sin) softest on sinners, and harshest on the outwardly religious (I wrote a bit about this last Friday)–the ones who claimed to have all the answers, to have it all together.
That was then, this is now, you might say. There are no more Pharisees. On the contrary, the spirit of Phariseeism is very much alive and well. Ask anyone who’s gone through hard times, has struggled with sin, has been maligned and marginalized because they don’t fit into a neat Evangelical category.
I know this first hand from observing how my wife was treated by well-meaning Christians during her ongoing illness. There were quite a number of assumptions we had to hurdle during this period:
1) That she must have unconfessed sin in her life, (who doesn’t?) and God was punishing her. Sure–“whom the Lord loves, He also chastens.” And sometimes it’s the consequence of living in a fallen world. (See Jesus words about the Tower of Siloam).
2) That she lacked faith for her healing. Tell that to Paul, and his “thorn in the flesh.” In fact, tell that to every saint chronicled in Hebrews 11–of whom the world was not worthy–that they didn’t get what they longed for because they lacked faith.
3) That our media choices–the books we read, the movies we watched–allowed demonic forces into our home, and our bodies. Last time I checked, “greater is He Who is in me, than he who is in the world.” Besides which, it’s not so much the media choices, as it is the why behind those choices, i.e., where the heart is, and where affection and allegiance are given.
I could go on. In fact, I have friends who have chronic illnesses–legitimately diagnosed conditions–who are accused of consorting with demons!
By well-meaning, but wrong-headed, Christians.
I think the fundamental problem lays in how we approach the Scriptures. Now, make no mistake, it has rules in it. But that’s not its primary purpose. Because, if it were, then the Pharisees were right: if we just follow the rules, then we can make our way to God. Paul is very clear on this:
“Touch not, taste not, handle not” all sound great and godly, but ultimately miss the mark. “The kingdom of God is not meat or drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”
Because the Bible is primarily a book of relationship. And we all know how difficult and messy relationships are. They take work, intentionality, effort.
But we want neat, easy, categories–because we don’t want mess. We don’t each other’s sin to rub off. So we shun, we ostracize, we make assumptions, and draw (false) conclusions. (Let me put it this way: if a hospital is a place of (physical) healing, shouldn’t the church be a place of spiritual healing? Why then do we do our surgeries with guns? Doctors don’t walk into operating rooms guns blazing; rather, surgeries are careful things–well-planned, and highly monitored. But the church–and Evangelicalism in particular–fosters an environment where we blast first, and ask questions later).
Because life is easier (for us) that way.
Instead, we should jump into the arena, and be accused of being:
Because that’s what love looks like. That’s what Jesus did. That’s WWJD.
Friends, we need to stop–in the Name of Jesus–shooting our wounded with our (un)holy word cannons of well-meaning. Stop turning a cold shoulder, and open our arms to one another.
What do you think?