Not that long ago I came across a Facebook post from a man named Carey Nieuwhof (Note 1). Something about what the post said about the Pharisees caught my attention, so I read the whole article . Recently, Dan mentioned the Pharisees in his sermon and there it was: that "how does he know..." moment. So rather than keeping these thoughts to myself, I'd like to share them.
First off, I do not believe Grace Church fits all the descriptions Carey uses, but I bet many of us have been places that do. That said it’s a great reminder of what we should be aiming for – to be more like Christ.
Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying, "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Sadly, it would appear that this is not an uncommon impression. Carey’s article mentioned a Barma study(see Note 2), so I looked it up to see what it had to say. Here are the main results:
- "Some 51% of self-identified Christians in the U.S. are characterized by having the attitudes and actions researchers identified as Pharisaical - they tend to have attitudes and actions that are characterized by self-righteousness."
- "On the other end of the spectrum, 14% of self-identified Christians seem to represent the actions and attitudes consistent with those of Jesus."
In a nutshell, the attitudes and actions of most Christians were described as self-righteous and hypocritical. What's important to note is this is not how others perceive Christians; this is how we perceive ourselves. Imagine then, if we see only 14% as "Christ-like", what do those we are trying to reach see?
I mentioned earlier that I don’t see this as a major issue in our Church; but given the statistics, there must be a bit of that Pharisee-like attitude in each of us, and that may be enough to limit our ability to reach others. So to help each of us take stock and see where we might need to adjust, here are the questions (Note 3) the Barma study asked. I'd simply ask that you prayerfully consider them; perhaps we can get together later and discuss our thoughts and impressions:
- I tell others the most important thing in my life is following God's rules.
- I don’t talk about my sins or struggles. That's between me and God.
- I try to avoid spending time with people who are openly gay or lesbian.
- I like to point out those who do not have the right theology or doctrine.
- I prefer to serve people who attend my church rather than those outside the church.
- I find it hard to be friends with people who seem to constantly do the wrong things.
- It's not my responsibility to help people who won't help themselves.
- I feel grateful to be a Christian when I see other people's failures and flaws.
- I believe we should stand against those who are opposed to Christian values.
- People who follow God's rules are better than those who do not.
- I listen to others to learn their story before telling them about my faith.
- In recent years, I have influenced multiple people to consider following Christ.
- I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.
- I try to discover the needs of non-Christians rather than waiting for them to come to me.
- I am personally spending time with non-believers to help them follow Jesus.
- I see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition.
- I believe God is for everyone.
- I see God working in people's lives, even when they are not following him.
- It is more important to help people know God is for them than to make sure they know they are sinners.
- I feel compassion for people who are not following God and doing immoral things.
Our vision is for Grace Church to be a genuine Christian Community, transformed by Jesus Christ to be transforming in the world. To move towards this vision we need to accentuate the Christ-like attitudes and actions we each possess, and work hard to reduce the effect of those that are more Pharisee-like.
Can you imagine what might happen if we consistently went out of our way to display these Christ-like actions and attitudes? Somehow I believe things would begin to change; things would begin to happen; and God would be glorified in everything we do. Perhaps someone would even paraphrase Gandhi’s quote to say, "I like your Christ; I like your Christians. Your Christians strive to be like your Christ."
I know there are some things I need to change in myself. How about you?
Note 1: http://careynieuwhof.com/pharisee/, accessed 27 Feb 17
Note 2: https://www.barna.com/research/christians-more-like-jesus-or-pharisees/, accessed 22 Mar 17
Note 3: Ibid.