I am a Pharisee

Have you noticed that when we read the bible in snippets we get a very different view of Jesus when we read his words in their entirety? It isn’t that reading in snippets is wrong necessarily. It is just that most of our tried and true Jesus stories leave out his hardest and most puzzling statements. I have realized in the last few years how much harder Jesus is than I previously realized.

By nature I am a rule follower. I like to pretend I am a rebel, but the truth is I don’t really buck authority. I think part of what first appealed to be about Christianity was the order and morality of it all. I was raised to be a good girl, and a good girl I have mostly been. Even in my non “good girl” phase, I could still look around me and take comfort in the fact that I was still behaving morally superior to most of the people around me.

But the thing about Jesus that has thrown me for a loop lately is that his harshest words aren’t for the sinners. Don’t get me wrong, he calls a sin a sin. He tells sinners to stop sinning and live their lives in ways that honor God. But his strongest words, some of the hardest to swallow, are to the religious people of his day.

It is easy to look at the Pharisees as an “other”. They are so pious. They keep trying to corner Jesus and trap him with his words. THEY are trying to kill our gentle Lord and Savior. But here is the truth I have come to believe:

If we don’t see ourselves in the Pharisees, we are reading it wrong. 

I can so easily recognize sin in others. Sometimes gleefully so. I can so quickly jump on a religious soapbox during every manufactured Christian controversy Facebook throws in my feed. And there is a new one every. single. day. We Christians love to pull out the “hate the sin, love the sinner” phrase but I think if we examined our hearts, we would see there is a part of us that is “hate the sin, feel superior” to the sinner.

Not all of us of course. Many of us still see ourselves as broken sinners so desperately in need of saving grace. But sometimes we seem to forget how big God’s grace really is. And we think somewhere deep inside that our sin deserves his grace a little more than someone else’s sin that seems so much worse in our made up hierarchy.

At the end of the day it is sometimes easier to rest in our own ability to keep the rules better than someone else. There will always be someone sinning more, sinning worse, or sinning more often. And that is a much easier pill to swallow than knowing that I am a broken messed up sinner so desperately in need of saving. Because what Jesus knew, and what his words so clearly show us is this – until we realize how dangerous the sin of pride and self-sufficiency are, we can never truly know Him. Maybe if we spent a little more time pondering the sin in that, we would have far less time to point our judging finger at others.


  1. Just heard that “love you, hate your sin” line in a board meeting this past weekend… ugh. I have resigned from my evangelical stream and it’s rules. Loved it, learned a lot; but, I have now become a contemplative activist. The challenge seems to be dual thinking, where you learn to follow rules, assuming everything you have been taught is truth and don’t ponder others’ perspectives… thinking different as you age & understanding the paradox in scripture… at least as Father Richard Rohr describes it… Then, most everything in Western culture that is “successful” is built on concepts of Greek logic; so, we all tend to conform to systems that work that way and think it is “the” way… These days, I am finding comfort in owning my stuff & reading Father Richard & Henri Nouwen… guess it’s my second half of life season…

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