30 July 2017

Weekend Reading - The Leaven of the Pharisees

"Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is a pious, hollow hypocrisy."

Luke 12:1

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees— hypocrites!   For you are like whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. You outwardly appear righteous, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

Matthew 23:27-28

"Why do you dwell on the splinter in your brother's eye, while failing to see the plank in your own?"

Luke 6:41

Ironically enough and as I have previously noted, I find myself more concerned these days not with those among my acquaintances that are unbelievers, although I do remember them all in my prayers. Each must find their own way in God's good time.

Rather, my concern is with my believing friends who, in their zeal for righteousness, fall prey into the trap of judging all others, and harshly.   Indeed, the destructiveness of their judgement extends not only to those whom they perceive to be in the most rigorous sense sinful, but to all others who differ from them, in almost any way, even to the most trivial details of rituals and observances.

And they justify the harsh distortion of their judgement not as a sin against the Spirit, but as a superior zeal for reform, purer than all others.    And finally it extends as a general anger to their own fellows, their own brothers and sisters, and to the very body of Christ on earth.

This is the leaven of the Pharisees. And the only safeguard against it is love. Not a love of the rituals and 'the Sabbath,' but of those imperfect creatures like themselves for whom the Sabbath was given.

The first sin is pride, and there is no form of it that is more toxic and destructive than a spiritual pride, contemptuous of the Spirit and all of its workings on the earth, which is love.   For pride comes to despise love as a weakness, and turns on it, and hardens the heart and the mind against it.

If you have less love and less forgiveness in your heart, and more harsh words and judgments, with a pessimistic and dour outlook even to the abundant graces and mercies of God and his messengers, I tell you truly that you may be in more peril than you can imagine.    You have been blinded to your own danger through the distraction of condemning others.

Look to your own sinfulness first, and beg God to show you all of your sins now, so fully and completely that you fall down in repentance, and have no time for judging others as you see them.

Judgement of others is a way of deflecting and avoiding a recognition of our own sinful nature.  It can be intoxicating to set oneself up as the Lord, and to pass out judgement without mercy and understanding.   But it is the way of darkness and death.

You were not put on this earth to judge others.  And so as you judge, so shall you be judged

"Surely, there is at this day a confederacy of evil, marshalling its hosts from all parts of the world, organizing itself, taking its measures, enclosing the Church of Christ as in a net, and preparing the way for a general Apostasy from it. Whether this very Apostasy is to give birth to Antichrist, or whether he is still to be delayed, as he has already been delayed so long, we cannot know; but at any rate this Apostasy, and all its tokens and instruments, are of the Evil One, and savour of death.

Far be it from any of us to be of those simple ones who are taken in that snare which is circling around us! Far be it from us to be seduced with the fair promises in which Satan is sure to hide his poison!

Do you think he is so unskilful in his craft, as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the Truth? No; he offers you baits to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality; he promises you trade and wealth; he promises you a remission of taxes; he promises you reform.

This is the way in which he conceals from you the kind of work to which he is putting you; he tempts you to rail against your rulers and superiors; he does so himself, and induces you to imitate him; or he promises you illumination, he offers you knowledge, science, philosophy, enlargement of mind.

He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution which reveres them. He prompts you what to say, and then listens to you, and praises you, and encourages you. He bids you mount aloft. He shows you how to become as gods.

Then he laughs and jokes with you, and gets intimate with you; he takes your hand, and gets his fingers between yours, and grasps them, and then you are his."

J.H.Newman, The Times of AntiChrist, 1890