|A Friend of God, Gays or the Pharisees|
(Luke 18:9 NKJV) Also He spoke this
parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous,
and despised others:
The Pharisees were religious and political movements that arose during the Hasmonean Dynasty (140-37 BCE) and received widespread backing and goodwill of the common people. They claimed prophetic or Mosaic Interpretations of the Mosaic Laws, and were opposed by the Sadducees who were more conservative and were based on the religious and aristocratic elites. The Pharisees distinguished themselves by insisting that the temple purity laws be also applied outside the temple. They were considered experts on the law amongst the Jewish sects. Mainstream Judaism today is directly linked to the teachings of the Pharisees.
The name Pharisee means the "separated ones". The Pharisees were a small group of less than 10,000 but they had great power for they controlled the synagogues.
The Jewish Tax collectors were considered as betrayers. They had betrayed their own people by working for the Roman Government. The tax they had collected were handed over to Rome, and whatever extra they could extort from the people became their salary. The Roman Official who was responsible for collecting the revenue would sell this right to the highest bidder – the tax collectors – who would then squeeze the money from the population. They were making money based on the sufferings of the people.
The Jewish tax collectors were therefore hated by the Jewish Population whilst the Pharisees were well supported much like the Tea Party today in America. When they called Jesus, a friend of Sinners, they were referring to his acceptance of the tax collectors as friends.
The Tax Collector was called righteous because he had a humble and contrite heart, recognized his own sins, and asked God for forgiveness. He was able to accept Jesus, invited Him into his home instead of condemning Jesus as a blasphemer for claiming to be God and the Messiah. The Tax Collector realized that he was a vile sinner needing salvation, for whom Jesus became his Messiah. He saw in Christ, God’s grace and mercy and accepted Him. It was God Himself in Christ Jesus who justified him when he did not try to justify himself.
The Tax collector did not even look to heaven to proclaim how good he was, but looked inward, regretful and mournful of his sins. In comparison, the Pharisee compared himself with the greatest “sinner” in the community to exalt his own righteousness. He would even boast to the heavens, proudly proclaiming how good he was and not like other sinners.
The Pharisees knew the bible and were experts in interpreting the law. They were proud of how well they are able to follow the tenants of the bible, and had looked down on others that society in general have considered much more sinful eg the tax collector. The general public would looked up to the Pharisees as examples of holiness and righteousness, because of the adherence to the laws including fasting, and praying regularly. They would have felt proud, and justified themselves before God of how righteous they were deserving to enter heaven. They have raised themselves high whilst condemning others as sinners to make themselves look good.
Jesus saw that the Pharisees were full of pride, of their own righteousness, and what they have done to be justified to reach heaven. This negates the need for a Savior. Their self righteousness hides their sins. Though hidden from public, they were like rotten skeletons, white wash tombs on the outside but full of inward decay within. Their self righteousness had prevented them from acknowledging their own sins. When we focus on the sins of others, their sins becomes larger and larger in our eyes. When the Christian Right begin condemning gays, they never stopped and even made up all sorts of false gay agenda.
One day when we reach heaven, I suspect that the Christian Right will boast how much more righteous and deserving they were than a gay man, yet God will judge us as he did the Pharisee who was hell bound. His own righteousness was soil and would not have saved him.
The Pharisees for all their literal reading of the bible, failed to see God. When Jesus came down to Earth, they were so full of themselves and their righteousness that they even claimed that Jesus was a sinner! The Pharisees were experts on biblical interpretation, yet truth and understanding came not by head knowledge but by a humble and contrite heart. They interpreted the bible based on their own self righteousness rather than with the fear of God and an understanding of their own frailty. Ultimately, they could not even see God, they could not recognize Jesus for in their minds, they had become more righteous than God.
Our own righteousness, even the most holy amongst us could not be justified before God. In our strive to become righteous and law abiding in our own eyes, we inevitably claim our righteousness through the law and in condeming others rather than by God's grace and in doing so, we may be unwittingly be worst than the most despised sinner through our hidden sins. When we are so adamant of the sins of gays in the case of Pastor Derek Hong and Rony Tan, they were bringing upon themselves their own judgement, in the same manner they had judged gays.
The Pharisees had a prescriptive type of absolute theology, but they were obviously biased with their own sins ignored but others amplified. There is no partiality in their judgements. Despite their best effort not to sin and to follow the bible laws, they end up committing the worst sin, of killing and crucifying God Himself. And yet, they could boast to heaven of how righteous they were.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of the Pharisees. The Pharisees criticised the tax collectors and rightly so for they had chosen to oppress the people and be agents of Rome. Yet, the mega church pastors went one step further, to condemn the gay community and ask for gays to be put into jails when there was no harm done to them. Being gay is an orientation and not a choice. The Gay community does not go out to oppress the Christian Community by taxing them, but have kept to themselves. Yet, space was not given and the Christian Right has made it a point to persecute the gay community and spread all sorts of false rethoric against this community.
How to avoid being a Pharisee? The key lies in not being religious hypocrites. For example, we say that
We cannot avoid impartiality in judgement unless we empty ourselves of our rights and status and walk in the foot steps of others. Before, we condemn the gay community, have we ever thought of being born with a same sex orientation? and be blamed for the sins of the straight community? Before we condemn others, do we see the sin in our own lives which may be much bigger compared to theirs. Can we walk in the footsteps of others and identify with their pain, sorrow, and sufferings! It is easy to talk about prosperity when we own a few flats and have a 7 series BMW, but much difficult when we owned not even the roof over our heads and there is no bread for tommorow.
The Pharisee trusted in his own righteousness whilst we are to trust in the righteousness imputed by God through Jesus Christ. As this righteousness is not earned but by God's grace, we have nothing to boast be-it over the worst sinner in the community, we are no different. Our self righteousness is well hidden but rears its ugly head when we proclaim our righteous indignation against gays and then speak all sort of lies against them as to justify our moral outrage. Are we any different than gays? Do we chose our sexual orientation? It is straight people who goes for abortions not gays.
Negating our self righteousness is not easy like losing weight. It is only possible when we are much humbled by life circumstances and experienced gross injustice, when everything is stolen from us. It is a spirit of brokenness that will allow us to see God. That was why the Tax collector was able to accept Jesus when the Pharisee could not, because his broken heart was open to God's grace.
(Phil 2:5 NKJV) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the Word incarnate, the walking bible. If we want to see God, we can see Jesus. It is said that no one has gone to heaven and came back - which is not true - for Jesus died and rose again. Each one of us must die in our own ways to walk with humility and emptiness allowing the Spirit of God to fill us so that we can continue the ministry of Christ here on earth. It is easy to criticise but much more difficult to sacrifice ourselves and our will and pride, and to chose to love others and have faith in God even when we are left hanging at the Cross. Christianity is a personnel walk of humility, faith and trust in God rather than conquering the whole earth and realised that we could not reach heaven for the path is narrow, the path of sacrifical love, grace and mercy.
(Mat 5:3 NKJV) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The life of many Gay Christian man is a life of brokenness, humility and
pain. There is so much rejection, soul searching, and inward struggles
of faith and sexuality. Our Faith clings on to the little we have
despite the church rejecting us and we subjected to false witness and
accusations and denied basic rights. But as we go through this life, and
approach it by forgiving others and giving them grace, even though we
have lost so much and have been denied life itself, we reach a state of
blessedness, because we will experience the Love and Grace of God, for
there is nothing left in us anymore, not even an ounce of pride in our spirit
to boast of. Create in us a clean heart O God, that we might see you