If you have spent any time in Sunday School or Bible study, you probably have at least one Bible character that you identify with. For me, it has always been Peter. Peter and I have a lot in common. We both suffer from foot-in-mouth disease: saying the first thing that pops into our mind without thinking it through. We both tend to act on first impulse and don’t consider all options, and when it comes to a fight-or-flight situation, we both dig in our heels and stand firm.
However, if I am honest with myself, given my background and unnatural fear of fish, I am much more likely to have been a Pharisee than a fisherman turned disciple. Pharisees aren’t really that different from many modern day Christians. If you are like me, you try to live a good life, read scripture and pray daily, follow all the moral rules and set a good example to follow. There is nothing wrong with that.
Pharisees get a bad rap, and there are plenty of good reasons for that; though have you ever stopped and thought about it? These are the people that you would have thought Jesus should have been hanging out with. Being the religious leaders of the day, they had the best of intentions. They were trying to live by the Law.
Pharisees and Christians run into the same problems: focusing on the rules and religion while acting the part. We lose focus on what God really cares about: the heart of every person. Too often I have judged others because they don’t live up to my standards. I let thoughts of being better than someone enter my heart. The reasons for this are pretty superficial, such as giving more time or money to a cause, or dressing better or knowing what book follows Deuteronomy.
I am very good at looking good and acting the part. You won’t find me getting drunk, sitting in a strip club or dropping quarters into a slot machine. I am careful not to swear, cheat or drive too fast. It is not that I haven’t failed in any of those general areas; I just know how to hide sin. Acting appropriately doesn’t make me better than anyone else. The choices people make are not for me to judge. I am not without sin; I have fallen short of the Glory of God. I also have accepted His offer of forgiveness and need to try and live by the example that Jesus gave – one of compassion, forgiveness and most of all, love.
The good news is that like Peter, God doesn’t give up on us when we fall short. The man who denied Christ three times in one of His darkest hours was still chosen to lead His church. With a prayerful heart and a humble spirit, God can still work in and through my life. He can work in and through you, too, even if you are as human as I am.