“What sorrow awaits you.” This is a phrase recorded in the Gospels, and attributed to Jesus. He said it over and over and over.
Do you know who the “you” is? Who has sorrow awaiting them–in Christ’s eyes?
In Matthew 23, Christ is talking to the enforcers of the law, the very law from which He came to set us free.
23 “What sorrow awaits you, teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[g] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel![h]
25 “What sorrow awaits you, teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,[i] and then the outside will become clean, too.
27 “What sorrow awaits you, teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
I believe with all my heart that there is great value in living a good, clean, holy life. I also believe that there is a slippery slope between the health of godliness and the trap of a god-igarchy, that is a focus on governing rather than on loving, serving, and being.
My friends, we must be so careful not to enter the politics of power, politics that say we KNOW what is right and best; a platform of holiness whose foundation rests upon a quicksand of sanctimony. The Gospels are filled with clear, direct, repeated warnings about becoming trapped in the law and blind to the Christ–and yet we leap over these passages and land on tiny phrases that embolden us to become pharisees once again. And we do so at the great cost of slamming one very precious door:
13 “What sorrow awaits you, teachers of religious law… you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.”
I write this as a scholar and student weary of the threat, yet very much in love with the Miracle.
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