Everyone likes to slap the Pharisee label on anyone who makes any sort of value judgment on anything these days. The Barna group recently conducted a survey trying to determine if Christians were more like Christ or more like the Pharisees. Respondents were asked to rate themselves according to how they agree with various statements. One of the supposed “Pharisee-like” statements was:
I like to point out those who do not have the right theology or doctrine.
Now, the “I like to” portion of this statement makes it a loaded question from the beginning. For example, I do not necessarily “like” to discipline my children, but it is both necessary and commanded by the Bible. But more importantly, Jesus could be considered a Pharisee (and therefore not Christ-like) by this metric. Since he “liked” to be obedient to the Father that means he, in one sense, “liked” to point out people’s theology and doctrine errors. Often he did this using very strong language. For example:
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? (Matthew 23:16-17).
That is a judgment of the Pharisees’ doctrine. Shame on Jesus! Or, how about this:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others (Matthew 23:23).
Would this judgmental Jesus be welcomed in our churches today? How about telling people to stop sinning? Yep, Jesus did that too:
Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).
Jesus even pointed out when people had the incorrect view of God (i.e. bad theology):
“You are doing the works your father did.” [The Pharisees] said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father–even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. (John 8:41-42).
Tell people to stop sinning? Check! Tell people they have incorrect doctrine? Check! Tell people they worship a false god! Check! What a judgmental Pharisee that Jesus of the Bible was! I do not want to sit at his table at the next church potluck.
Now, of course, we can push the pendulum too far in both directions. We do need to address sin. We do need to correct false doctrine and bad theology. But, we also need to do that out of a desire that our hearers repent and come to saving faith in the real Jesus. It needs to ultimately come from a love for others. It is often a difficult, but necessary, balance to strike.