Christians Include, Pharisee Exclude

Christians Include, Pharisees Exclude“The Christian includes, he does not close the door to anyone, even if this provokes resistance. He who excludes, because he believes himself to be better, generates conflicts and divisions, and does not consider the fact that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” –Pope Francis

Exclusion was popular in Jesus’ time. The Pharisees, a popular Jewish renewal movement, looked down on the majority of Jews as unclean masses, the “people of the land.” Their exclusionism was often linked with their sense of piety.

“Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” –Romans 14:10

Is it any wonder then that they had problems with Jesus? Jesus included tax collectors and sinners, lepers and women among his followers. These common sinners were drawn to Jesus, because he was inclusive. Keep in mind that Jesus never accepted their sin. But, he knew that beating them over the head with the law wasn’t the best way to get them to lead a more righteous life.

Those who judge drive people away. They create little circles of like-minded friends, consider themselves better, generate conflict and division and risk the judgement of God. Pope Francis reminds us that Christ; in fact, “with His sacrifice on Calvary” unites and includes “all men in salvation.” We should never close the door of our Christian faith to anyone.

Throughout all of salvation history there have been those who close the door on anyone who doesn’t think, act and judge as they do. Human nature hasn’t changed, people still feel superior to those they exclude.

What about today? Are there modern day Pharisees? Are their people so concerned with the rule book that they exclude anyone who doesn’t believe as they do?

“Then let us no longer judge one another, but rather resolve never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” –Romans 14:13

The answer is yes!

In their zeal for the faith, they fail to realize that not everyone is where they are in their personal faith journey. Many have never heard the message of forgiveness, redemption and salvation through Jesus. And, if they drive them away they will never have the opportunity to share the faith. Jesus accepted people just as they were, never accepting their sin, but always accepting them. And, the more they were drawn to Him, the more they moved away from their sin.

Ask a non-Christian or young person their impression of Christians and they will say that Christians are judgmental, hypocritical, and insensitive. That doesn’t sound like people that are supposed to be Christ to the world. In fact, it sounds un-Christian! And, when the modern day Pharisee read this, they’ll find a myriad of excuses why their critics impressions are incorrect.

Yet, that is the reality as church attendance continues to decline each year! They have excluded to the extent that, like the Pharisees, they believe that adherence to their narrow interpretation of the law is the solution rather that the cause of the decline.

As Pope Francis continues to remind us, the Christian includes, the Pharisee excludes. That is why he has talked of a more inclusive church, one that gets its hands dirty, serving the poor, marginalized and excluded “people of the land.”

What can we do to be more inclusive without compromising our faith? How can we avoid the trap of becoming a modern day Pharisee and be more Christ-like?

  1. Let’s shine the light of Christ to drawn people to him not drive them away. People are drawn to sincerity, sensitivity, respect and gentleness. If we meet people where they are in their faith journey with respect and sincerity, we will shine the light of Jesus on them. We can’t ask people to behave before they believe!  As we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ.”
  2. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. In Galatians we learn of the fruits of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. Most Christians like the idea of the virtues, but not necessarily the practice of them! We need to filter our actions through the virtues.
  3. Let’s share the truth of the faith with them in love. People need truth and love!  We need to lead with love.  In Ephesians 4:15 we read, “Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head,
  4. Let’s pray for them. I don’t have to agree with anyone to pray that the Lord touches them in a special way and opens them to the truth of our Christian faith. Let’s pray for those who are lost rather that judge them.

Let’s be true Christians and include and not be modern day Pharisees and exclude. Let’s not lose the opportunity to share our beautiful Christian faith with love.

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