But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” Luke 5:30-32
If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness. 1 John 2:9-11
If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. 1 John 4:20-21
The Luke passage above contains so much that is fundamentally wrong with the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. It begins with the fact that they think they are righteous. It moves to them not knowing they are sinners who need to repent. Next, we see that there are some people they absolutely hate and for whom they have absolutely no love. And finally, they think that if Jesus is really a spiritual leader, he should join them in their hatred of the so-called "scum" and that he should have absolutely no association whatsoever with them. It is interesting that Jesus says he did not come to call those who think they are righteous. I think Jesus says this because he cannot call those who think they are righteous. Jesus is talking about the self-righteous and the self-righteous don't think they need a savior and if you don't think you need a Savior, you don't need Jesus.
I don't think there are any of us that entirely escape the syndrome of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. Apply the love test: is there anyone I think should be excluded from ever knowing Christ's love and presence. If there is anyone we have put into this category, then we are guilty and we either don't understand why we need a Savior or we have forgotten why we needed Christ in the first place. We are all just as sinful in God's eyes. The difference is that some people manifest it (in our eyes) more readily than others. We may not be as blatant about things as the Pharisees and teachers of religious law in our story but we are like them.
Another way to look at this is like this: somewhere buried in my soul is the notion that I deserved (to some degree however small) to be saved while some others (scum) don't. Somehow, we escaped the syndrome of the Pharissees and teachers of religious law enough to receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ but not enought to rid us of self-righteousnes and to make us lovers of people (all people) like Christ. The inconsistency of this is made clear in the 1 John passages above. We need to meditate long and hard on what it means to need a Savior at the beginning and along the way. We need to live life as ones who always need a Savior (my salvation was totally undeserved and unearned and it is Christ and Christ alone who can produce righteousness in me) because slipping into a self-righteous Christian lifestyle somewhere along the way happens readily.
Lord, restore unto me the joy (and clarity) of my salvation. I confess that far too often I find joy from having a sense of feeling alright about myself because I think I have accomplished so-called righteous living. Deliver me from self-righteousness, show me how to absolutely depend on your indwelling presence, and fill me up with your love and compassion to such an extent that it freely flows from me to others (all others).
Posted on Tue, March 17, 2015
by Ken Hart