Does Every Church Have Pharisees?

We are told not to be judgmental. However, it is not difficult to see Christians continually telling others how they should live. When our church changed its mission from being traditional to evangelizing the lost, we were criticized by many church leaders as being too liberal and preaching that which tickles the ears rather than hell-fire and brimstone preaching. Jesus was also criticized for doing what we believe God wanted us to do.

Mark 2: 13 – 17 – “Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the ‘sinners’ and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? On hearing this, Jesus said to them, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

Jesus clashed with religious leaders about the company He kept. He stopped to meet Levi, called Matthew and the author of the Book of Matthew who was a tax-collector for the Romans. Most tax collectors were hated by the Jews because they worked for the Romans and they had a reputation for overcharging and cheating. Any Jew who accepted that job was excommunicated from the synagogue and shamed his family and friends. Matthew’s attention to record keeping and detail is seen in his writing. History tells us that Jesus knew Matthew previously before asking him to become one of His Apostles.

Matthew recognized that Jesus wasn’t inviting him but calling him. Matthew’s obedience was an amazing change that affected his life forever. He left great wealth and a lucrative occupation. He went from wealth to poverty.

Levi or Matthew at once invited all of his friends to dinner to meet Jesus. It was a crowd that Jesus could never reach in the synagogue. They all had been excommunicated. There were established as sinners because they did not live by the rigid standards set by the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that time. These teachers of the law were specialists in how a Jew should live. They had interpreted the law and were part of keeping the 613 rules that the Jews had created as a requirement to be Jewish. They often saw themselves as righteous and everyone else was a sinner.

Jesus came, who was popular, taught with great authority from the Old Testament Scriptures and claimed to be speaking for God and yet ignored their laws and seemed to condone sin by keeping company with sinners. The Pharisees refused to eat with common people because the sins of commoners might make them ceremonially impure. Jesus was aware of the question: “Why does He eat with tax-collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered by saying it is the sick who realize they need a doctor. Jesus says He has come to heal the sick because the self-righteous do not realize they are sick and need to be healed.

If you decide to have the church approach sinners as Jesus did, many religious and self-righteous Christians will ask the same questions the Pharisees asked Jesus. Why are you placing more attention on sinners and the unchurched than on those who have been Christians for years? Why would you say “It’s okay to not be okay?” If you are not okay spiritually, the church is where you belong. Do you think God would be displeased for trying to find the sick sinner and getting them healed?

The religious leaders accused Jesus of being possessed. Mark 3:22 – “And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” The religious leaders refused to believe that His power was from God. Many Christians could not believe that God could make our church be a missionary church reaching out to the unsaved. This required us to do things that were not traditional. A Jew who did not obey the 613 man-made laws they were excommunicated from the Synagogue. We, as a church, were believed to be just as guilty.

Mark 6:7 – “Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.” Mark 6:12 – 13 – “They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” Mark 8:34 – 38 – “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Often our church members question the mission of the church. Why are we not like other Christian churches? Christ was teaching His disciples that they were to open their minds and hearts to a new truth suited for the present age. This is what we believe Christ wants from us today. Our mission field starts in our backyard and from there it goes wherever Christ takes us. As long as people are believing, repenting and living by God’s Will, the results indicate we are on the right path.

The purpose of the above information is to present a different ministry. If your mind and heart is closed to new ways of preaching and teaching the gospel, you will not feel comfortable in a missionary church. This is why we have many different denominations. My suggestion is: Just because it does not fit into your spiritual concept, be careful in being judgmental of others with a different mission.

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