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PHARISEES RULE OK!

It really has me fuming!

First it was the PTA at our local Primary School. We were debating whether to reinstate "Bible in Schools". The parents present were divided on the issue: some strongly in favour, some with reservations, a few clearly against. But it was the teachers' attitude that got me mad. "We don't need this programme, we are already teaching the kids to be good and kind." They clearly thought Christianity and other religions were simply telling people to be good.

The Chinese gentleman who introduced the request to restart "Bible in Schools" clearly knew better, though he had some difficulty expressing himself in English. The Christian parents seemed to understand, but for the teachers: "religion = morality" was all they knew.

What an education system! Children go all the way through, they even go on and train as teachers themselves, they come out, and still they believe that Christianity is a primitive form of moral instruction. And that is what they tell our kids!

Jesus knew better. There were two men, one good and religious - did all the right things; the other a sinner - his life a dirty rotten mess. The good man thanked God that he was not greedy or dishonest. The sinner begged God to forgive him and help him. The sinner was justified and not the good man, said Jesus. (Lk 18:9-14)

The still fermenting New Wine of the Gospel bursts the tired old leather wineskins of the world and its ways. (Mk 2:22)

Why does all this make me mad? Because so many people fail to see that Christianity is not about being good, it's about being changed. About standing with the other sinners in the temple and begging God's forgiveness and grace. Not about strength and self-righteousness but about weakness and failure.

If you know you are strong
       - the gospel is not for you.
If you know you are good
       - the gospel is not for you.
If your life is smooth and well organised
       - the gospel is not for you.
But if life is a mess, if you feel a failure, if you need help fast, because you know you can't make it alone
       - then the gospel and the kingdom are yours!

Of course, we church people have only ourselves to blame. In this uptight, success matters, image conscious, upright (on the surface) world we have "bought in", or sold out! We come to Church, scrubbed outside, well dressed, looking good (Bible in hand, hearty smile on face) - and we pretend. Whitewashed tombs! That's what Jesus called people like us. (Mt 23:27)

And as long as we pretend, look confident and good, revel in God's approval without recognising our weakness and sin, as long as we look down on the sinners outside the walls, as long as we make out that we are righteous - the sinners outside will never join the sinners inside. They will never truly hear the gospel and so God's loving forgiveness is hidden from them.

Then the Pharisees have won!

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2002

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