Grace for the Pharisee

I was eight years old, and had just been baptized, when I came upon this kid from my church (who had also just been baptized) picking on someone younger than him.  I challenged him to pick on someone his own size, and as I was the only one around anywhere near his size, he went ahead and clocked me.  I’m pretty sure I saw stars.  He apologized immediately, but I was in a lot of pain, and I’m pretty sure the very next words out of my mouth were, “And you call yourself a Christian?”

Somehow, my mom got wind of this incident.  I was outside kicking ashes from a recent bonfire around in our driveway, and she came storming out, and I just knew I was in for it.  I heard alot about my self-righteous attitude that day, but I remember more than anything these words: “And you call yourself a Christian?”

And I wished I’d never uttered those words.

Now, I hear them all of the time.

We all think we’re better Christians than everyone else. We don’t have much grace for our brothers and sisters who think and live differently than we do. We are entirely too comfortable saying (even if not in as many words), “And you call yourself a Christian?”  I think, if we’re being 100% honest, we’re all Pharisees on some level: we are certain our way is the right way, and any other person doing it any other way is wrong.

Don’t get me wrong: self-righteousness is a BIG issue, but…

Jesus died for the self-righteous, too.

Jesus died for that eight-year-old girl who essentially challenged someone to a fight, got exactly what was coming to her, and not fully understanding what it actually was to be a Christian, spouted off.

Jesus died for my mom, who was absolutely humiliated that her daughter would even say something like that.

Jesus died for those people who call everyone who disagrees with them heretics.

Jesus died for those people who call everyone who disagrees with them Pharisees.

Jesus died for those people who secretly think they’re better than everyone else.

Jesus died for those people who not-so-secretly think they’re better than everyone else.

No, I’m not perfect.  I sometimes spout off to the people who hurt me, and I can make it sound really Biblical (thank you, AWANA), when I’m really just ticked.  Sometimes, I react passive-aggressively, rather than dealing with conflict in a healthy manner.  I have days where I get impatient, and give up way too easily.  I can’t seem to be victorious in my eating and spending habits.  I think I’m better off for being honest and vulnerable than those people who aren’t willing to talk about their own sin (yet are somehow always willing to get on me about mine).

Yes, I do call myself a Christian.  You know, because of Jesus.

I want to extend the same courtesy to other Christians.  In spite of imperfections and disagreements, I want to embrace my brothers and sisters in Christ as family.  I want to give grace, not just to those who appear to need it, but also to those who don’t seem to think they need it.  I don’t mean I want to dismiss sin, or bury my head in the sand about very real issues, I just want to grow to love people the way Jesus does.

And He does love people.

Even Pharisees.