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I was recently inspired to pick up and read the book, Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne.

I just finished the book, and it was great.  I couldn’t put it down.

In seeking to live a life pleasing to God and follow well after Jesus, I want to be sure that I avoid the trap of judgement, condemnation, comparison and an attitude of spiritual arrogance that has been so painful for me to witness in others (and in my own heart, at times).  I want to focus on being Jesus’ loving representative to everyone I come in contact with and let God sort out the rest.  Here are some excerpts from the book:

“It’s about accidental Pharisees – people like you and me who, despite the best intentions and a desire to honor God, unwittingly end up pursuing an overzealous model of faith that sabotages the work of the Lord we think we’re serving.” (p.17)

“You’ve probably know a jerk for Jesus, someone who thought they were advancing the cause of the kingdom when in reality they were simply embarrassing the King.” (p.18)

“If you allow your frustration to turn into disgust and disdain for people you’ve left behind, you’ll end up on a dangerous detour.  Instead of becoming more like Jesus, you’ll become more like his archenemies, the Pharisees of old, looking down on others, confident in your own righteousness.” (p. 20)

“Sometimes I wonder if in our quest to purify the church, we’ve become more like Pharisees than like Jesus.  Accidental Pharisees perhaps.  But Pharisees nonetheless.” (p.37)

“Spiritual comparisons are particularly silly.  We don’t always know the full story.  All we see is the outside.  There’s no way to see the heart.  This means that a lot of our conclusions about people are flat-out wrong.” (p.44)

“Spiritual arrogance is not a back-of-the-line sin: it’s a front-of-the-line sin.  So much so that sometimes I think of it as an occupational hazard of zealous faith, serious discipleship, and biblical scholarship.”  (p.46)

“But as valuable as biblical knowledge is, I think it should come with a warning label.  The fact is, the more we know, the more we’re tempted to look down on people who don’t know what we know.”  (p.59)

“But there is something worse than settling for mediocrity.  It’s exclusivity.  It’s the temptation to up the ante and to raise the bar of discipleship so high that it disqualifies all but the most committed, and thus thins the herd that Jesus came to expand.”  (p. 69)

“The truth is that Jesus didn’t come to raise the bar.  He didn’t come to weed out the losers.  He came to turn losers, laggards, and enemies into full-on sons and daughters of God.”  (p.84)

“We have no right to judge people whom God accepts.  We have no right to look with contempt upon people whom God loves.”  (p. 101)

“Second, we seldom speak directly to those in need of correction.  I find it interesting that the apostle Paul never wrote any letters that criticized other churches.”  (p.132)

“We’re stuck with each other.  We have to learn to get along.  We’re united by Jesus, not by choice.  And nothing is going to change that.  Our biblical unity is rooted solely in our relationship with Jesus.  It’s not dependent on shared religious practices, patterns, or preferences.  It’s not contingent on agreeing on every point of theology.”  (p.140)

“But uniformity is not what Jesus died for.  He didn’t come to break down the dividing walls that separated Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, women and men so that we could coalesce around a boring, blended, homogeneous middle.  Quite the contrary.  He came to save us in our differences, not from them.”  (p.140)

“We become accidental Pharisees when we lay down boundary markers that are narrower than the ones laid down by Jesus and then treat people who line up on the wrong side of our markers as if they were spiritual impostors or enemies of the Lord.”  (p.142)

“I am saying that our definitions of what it means to be a genuine Christ follower must include room for the weak and the struggling, the frightened and the failing, in order to remain aligned with Jesus rather than with the Pharisees of old.”  (p.195)

One thought on “Pharisees

  1. Weekend Swell November 16, 2019 / 10:27 am

    These are great thoughts. I probably spent too much time pretending I wasn’t a pharisee, instead of admitting that’s just part of the deal. When we choose to follow a higher standard, we either get sucked into that higher standard as pharisees, or learn to be comfortable with not reaching it. The latter is more human, but for some reason most humans i know focus on not admitting our humanness. What a relief when Jesus meets us right where we are, and continues to love us even if we stay right there.


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