Saturday, August 4, 2007

Today's Question: Did Jesus Love the Pharisees?

It's been one of those days. On the plus side, I slept in (oh, blissful sleep!) and didn't get up until 10:30-ish. I love it that my dog understands his mama's need to sleep and that he didn't bug me to get up.

On the other side (maybe plus, maybe not), I had weird dreams and thoughts in that half-wakefulness that comes in the morning when you know you really should get up and you really don't want to just yet. Aside from the rebuilding of whatever it was I was rebuilding (it had to do with hardwood flooring - I have no idea where that came from), I was thinking about .... stuff (I'll try to post more about that later).

Some of it has to do with the election. In case you didn't know, I'm sort of stumping for Fred Thompson. The more I read about the guy, the more I like him for the White House, if for no other reason than he really didn't want it - this is not the cumulation of a life-long ambition for him, but it seems to be something he would do as a public service. When was the last time you heard of a president taking on the role as a service to the public?

Flowing from that was the question about whether it matters if the person who next occupies the White House is a Christian or not, and I'm not sure about that either. That question came up when Harriet Myers was proposed for the Attorney General slot, and I still think that it matters less if the person is a Christian than if they're competent and moral - I'd way rather have an atheist plumber who is a good plumber than a Christian who isn't very good at all.

Thinking about politics, though, reminded me of this great book by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson called "Blinded by Might," which talks about the Moral Majority and its influence on the political landscape. It struck me that good citizenship is a Christian responsibility - much of what the Bible says about loving your neighbor as yourself and doing good to those who persecute you is good citizenship, but that led me to the question of what the Bible means when it says "love" in that context.

I thought that the parable of the good Samaritan was a pretty good answer, but as I re-read it, I realized that the definition of neighbor is not about whom you see that might be in need. Jesus's answer to the rich man who had asked "who is my neighbor" was that, of the three men who saw the victim, the Samaritan was his neighbor because he showed mercy to him. If a neighbor is one who shows mercy, then is the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself limited to those who show you mercy?

If the public's perception of what it means to be a "real" Christian is that you love everybody indiscriminately, is that an accurate perception? And along that thought train, I wondered if Jesus loved the Pharisees? I'm not sure. Remember, this was the group that He called "a generation of vipers."

I'll have to think on this a little and get back to you. Not so much so that I can figure out where I'm going with this as so that I can do the research and formulate an answer. I'm really not sure where it's going to lead.


Lynn said...

Good thoughts, friend. I will refrain from imposing my own answers upon you, but I will comment. If we love indiscriminately, then 'what is love?' is a very good question. If one believes they know what love is, then look at it like this: SHOULD you love indiscriminately? Is it good for you or does it damage you? If it damages you, is this what a loving God would want? Why or why not? Do your answers fit in with the real honest-to-god person of Jesus that can only be found in a searching and private study of the Gospels that is not influenced by the corruption or hidden agendas of those who want to 'explain' Jesus to you?

lawyerchik said...

Amazing how we're thinking along the same lines, Lynn, because that was the part that was sticking in my head, too: the indiscriminate or unconditional tag that gets stuck to the admonition to love.

It seems to come most often from people who want to use the commandment to love as a weapon - you have to love me, no matter what, because that's what the Bible says. I think that's why I like the Proverbs so much....

The other thing I found (so far) is that at least as far as God is concerned, God's love for us doesn't override the effects of sin and our own choice - Christ's death, burial and resurrection paid for our sins once and for all, but we don't get the benefit of that unless we act to have that benefit applied to us.

I think that's where the "indiscriminate" or "unconditional" part gets mixed up - God's love is such for us that He gave His Son to die in our place. And that love was not limited to just a few people; His love was for the whole world, and it must break His heart that there were and are and will be people who will reject Him.

But even though He loves us that much, we still have to take the step of accepting that sacrifice on our behalf. Even though God loves us, He won't override our own will and choices.

Beautifuldreamer said...

I'm new here, having found your blog via Enola's. I hope you don't mind my adding my thoughts on this subject, though I don't profess to have all the answers.

I believe that what our society (or even the world as a whole, for that matter) considers to be love is far different from the Biblical definition of that word.

I try frequently to remind myself that in Isaiah God tells us that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and surely this is especially true when it comes to loving.

If we define love as simply a nice warm feeling, we are going to fail miserably at loving our neighbors. Some people just don't possess loveable qualities! But if we go beyond surfaces to the real heart of the matter, taking into account that Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves, then we begin (perhaps) to see with spiritual eyesight.

I would think that love always involves sacrifice of some kind. Even if we're just talking about the inconvenience of getting up to feed a newborn at 2 hour intervals during the night. Love, to qualify as love, must be focused on the good of the other rather than on our own emotion (or lack of such!) toward that individual.

Did Jesus love the Pharisees? Having given us the command to love, how could He not? I don't believe it was a sentimental, feel good kind of love. It was the same love he expressed to all of humanity when he chose the way of the cross.

Sometimes love doesn't come across as love. Jesus publicly accused the Pharisees of being vipers. Does that mean He didn't love them? I think it means that when you see the house is on fire it's no time for soft, sentimental words. Sometimes you have to speak the truth in such a way that it shocks. I believe Jesus' motivation for confronting the Fat Cat Pharisees was twofold: for their own good as a warning of coming judgment if they didn't repent, and as a public defense of the downtrodden whom the Pharisees delighted in burdening with so many rules they couldn't even keep track of them all.

Should I love everyone? Yes. Should I trust everyone? No. I should be wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove.

If we have an ounce of God's love in our hearts we'll feel for the downtrodden. We may even feel for the Pharisee's hardness of heart.

Sorry, didn't mean to pontificate!


lawyerchik said...

BD - Welcome - glad you stopped by! I have to say, I think you nailed it right on. Definition is everything, and our "modern-day" definition or understanding of love is what gets us in trouble. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! :)

Phil said...

I totally agree BD - thanks for posting that