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Pharisee or Christlike?

August 26, 2015

There’s a wonderful story in the book of Luke in the Bible (Chapter 7:25-50) about an interaction between Christ Jesus, a local prostitute, and Simon the Pharisee.  Simon had invited Jesus to dine with him, and the prostitute had come to show her gratitude for his healing of her.  Simon was aghast that Jesus would allow such a thing, since it flew in the face of all the rules.  But Jesus overturned all those human rules and operated at a more spiritual level.

So the question is, do we look at the world like Simon did, saying “here are the rules and if you don’t follow them you’re wrong?”  Or do we see the world through the eyes of grace as Jesus did, letting compassion be our guide?  Do we ask ourselves, “what would be the most progressive and helpful thing to do at this moment?” or do we simply say “no room for that kind of thing here.”

The Pharisees had a very rigid and harsh system of rules that maintained a sense of order but excluded spiritual insight and regeneration.  To their viewpoint, any deviation from their structure was sinful and to be punished. This closed the door on innovation, insight, and healing.  And it rejected the very Messiah they had been waiting centuries for, because it didn’t fit there confining model.

How are we doing the same thing?  How narrow and proscriptive are our views of ourselves and fellowman?  With that kind of outlook, there is no option but to fail since no one can measure up to those harsh restrictions.  But Jesus came to throw off those limitations.  He came to set the imprisoned thought free.  He encouraged his followers to be thinkers, not just automatons.  Isn’t the Golden Rule a perfect example?  And the rest of the Sermon on the Mount?

Jesus loved the Ten Commandments and encouraged obedience to them.  But his ministry disrupted the officious regulations of the Pharisees. He accused them of hypocrisy because they only strove to appear to be law-abiding.   He said, “ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”  (Luke 11:42)

Although it’s not clear if the Judaic sect of the Pharisees still survives today, certainly legalistic pharisaism is alive and well!  But it’s not too late to purge it from our churches and governments. our communities and our homes.  Jesus’ model of love, compassion, forgiveness, and expectation of reform all stemmed from his understanding of God’s unyielding love for him, and for us.

That kind of love heals.  Then, and now.

For a great exegesis of the story in Luke referred to above, click here.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.

What cannot Love do?

August 16, 2015

Love is another name for God that comes straight from the Bible (1 John 4:8). It’s not just a facet of His being or something that He does.  It’s who He is. And I could just as easily say it’s who She is too, since Love is no more a gender based idea than God is.  God is all and includes all, but not in a pantheistic way.  God, Love, simply is.

What does that mean to you and me?  We can expect to be comforted by Love, tenderly and persistently.  We can hope for and have consistent protection and direction, right from Love.  We can receive and be blessed by an unending abundance of helpful ideas leading to useful solutions, poured forth by Love. We can even reflect that infinite Love in caring for each other in meaningful and harmonious ways.

The Apostle Paul talked about that kind of caring in his magnificent first letter to the Corinthians (13th chapter).  He explained that we could be totally awesome, but if it was without love it would be hollow and ultimately in vain. His portrayal of love included these qualities: steadfast, unselfish, untiring, faithful, true, perpetual, fair, unyielding, immediate, continual, quiet, and so on.

Jesus knew how to love so deeply that it healed.  But the Master’s love wasn’t just human goodness amplified.  It was God’s love made manifest in him as the Christ.  And that Christ-love is still active today.  Didn’t Jesus remind his followers, and therefore us, that “the works I am doing you will do too.  And even greater works will you do…”  (John 14:12)  He was making plain that the infinite love of Love is as active and powerful and ever present today as it was then.

Divine Love is loving us and saving us and giving to us and helping us and guarding us and sustaining us and delivering us and lifting us and whatever else we need whenever else we need it.  This is how Love operates.

We don’t have to earn this love, but we do have to expect it.  We don’t have to deserve it, but we do have to make room for it.  We don’t have to wait for it, but we do have to watch for it.  And more and more as we attune our thoughts to infinite Love filling all space, will our space be filled with love too.  We will find it because Love will have already found us.

The Apostle Paul asked his readers to let this profound observation – this mind of Christ – be in them.  (Phil 2:5)  In other words, let this understanding of divine Love that Christ Jesus lived and taught be what you live and teach through your example.  What better way is there to do the works he did, than to start with love?

Love is loving you.  Let yourself be loved.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.

 You’ve heard the joke: a policeman pulls a driver over and takes them into custody.  After a few hours at the jailhouse, the officer releases the individual with an apology and an explanation: “when I heard you lean on the horn, and saw you flip that other driver off and curse them, and then saw the fish emblem and Jesus is Lord bumper stickers, I thought you must have stolen the car.”

Do we justify that kind of behavior by saying, “I’m not perfect, but I’m forgiven,” and then make no effort to live more perfectly, just doing things that need to be forgiven instead?

Christians have an example before them of the kind of behavior that is expected, in Christ Jesus himself.  He set the standard, and he set it very high. And he accepted no excuses for not measuring up.  How many times did he chastise his disciples and the Pharisees, both who should have known better, for not “getting” it?  And yet, he tenderly, patiently, and persistently encouraged his disciples to measure up.  His encouragement of the Pharisees was of a different sort, but no less persistent, even compassionate: if he could only awaken them to their hypocrisy he could show them the Kingdom of Heaven.  And he wanted everyone to know the Kingdom of Heaven.

As Christians, we want everyone to know the Kingdom of Heaven too.  That’s why it’s so important to be an example of it, to point the way as tenderly and patiently and persistently as he did, through kindness and affection and humility.  And healing.  What better way is there to let others know how awesome it is?

Here’s a step you can take right now.  Ask yourself if the things you post on Facebook actually reflect your Christianity.  Are they demeaning of anyone? Of a political party, politician, or celebrity?  Or race or gender or culture?  Are you willing to give them up in order to more rightly influence the world?  That doesn’t mean you have to flood Facebook with Scripture.  Just don’t flood it with unkindness.

Jesus said, “You will know my disciples because they love one another.”  (John 13:35) Let’s show the world that we know what that means and then live as if we agree with it.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.