Religious Self-Justification

Posted on May 30, 2012 | 0 comments

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:17

Jesus tells an interesting story about a tax collector and a Pharisee where the audience is allowed to hear the prayers of each. The Pharisee, being a model follower of God, lists the reasons that he has earned the love of God – and even thanks God that he is not sinful like other men.

Apparently this man had forgotten that he was cut from the same cloth as the robbers, evildoers, adulterers, and even this tax collector that he was thankful not to be. The obedience that the pharisee what using to prove his acceptance to God was also serving as a lens for determining who was more loved by God.

I was reminded of this parable last week as a video went viral of a pastor giving his congregation a suggestion on what our country should do with the “lesbians and queers.” If you’ve not seen the video, all you need to know is that it involves 150 miles of fence to cage these people until they die off.

Of course, out of compassion, “we’d still feed them.” I wonder if the pharisee would have said the same about the tax collector?

Jesus’ story and the sad teachings from last week are both examples of the result when we attempt to earn our acceptance. The behavior we exhibit becomes the standard for comparison – what we expect everyone else to adhere to in order to be considered justified. Rules are a way to know where you stand.

Self-justification hardens the heart. Rather than being connected with God and open to His ways, the self-justified heart focuses on self. It is the false self wearing religious clothing.

I’m OK. They are not OK. They need to look like me to be OK.

By the way, this is not support for homosexuality. Or adultery. Or any other sinful lifestyle. God does indeed hate those things because they have deceived and enslaved the beings that bear His image.

It is an acknowledgement that the way to God is not through behavior modification, it is by entering into Christ.

He doesn’t want homosexuals in a fence, He wants them in Christ. For freedom. To overcome. To not create their own acceptance anymore. Same for the robber. Same for the adulterer. And the evildoer too.

The message we have for the broken, scarred, sinful world is not condemnation – get-rid-of-your-sins-so-God-will-love-you – but the gospel message of hope that in Christ there is forgiveness for sin and covering for shame.

In the parable mentioned above, Jesus commends the tax collector for admitting his sin and helplessness before God.

That is a posture both a self-justified pastor and homosexual should share.

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