Recently i instigated (rather sarcastically i should add) a logic discussion with someone who by their own admission isn’t a Christian. Now don’t throw up your hands at my insolence just yet. To my credit i didn’t know that at the time as he was making himself out to be a most authoritative and outspoken kind of a Christian. You know the types, the ones who should be able to handle a bit of the confrontation that they so frequently serve up. I was under the impression he could handle a little engagement of logic and doctrine but that didn’t turn out to be the case and so i endured the whining and the slander that for some reason seem to accompany those of the liberal persuasion. If you ever find yourself in that position, here’s a word of wisdom: When entering a sword fight, refrain from going blow to blow on those who draw a wet noodle from their scabbard. (Full disclosure: I have documented all of the public conversations in their entirety and because it was quite a scene if anyone is concerned or would like to bring a charge, i will gladly hand over a copy of said conversations.)
That whole thing got me thinking. First, about the parable Jesus gives of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went up to pray. I was wondering, would it change the essence of the parable if for instance the Pharisee and the tax collector offered each other’s prayers? If the tax collector turned out to be the haughty one instead of the Pharisee? What about if we give the same parable but use a presumptuous ice cream truck driver and a humble pastor? Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems to me that Jesus is taking a shot at an attitude rather than an occupation.
It seems that Jesus is taking a shot at presumption not vocation. If that is in fact the case, it would logically explain why the humiliated prostitutes and thieves didn’t evoke the same flavor of “truth in love” as the religious leaders of the day. Think of the woman caught in adultery and the thief on the cross propped up next to the religious leaders, quite a difference. But what is the difference? Well there are obviously quite a few so maybe we should think about the similarities. They’re all filthy, condemned sinners who will shrivel from the wrath of God apart from Jesus Christ. While they had different parents, occupations, probably different clothes; they got their jollies differently and yet they were all undeserving sinners. So what is the difference that provoked such distinct interaction.
A telling clue is found in Matthew 9:11-12, “And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” Weren’t they all sick? Jesus distinguished not between actual need as all men are in need (Romans 3:23), rather He was distinguishing between those who admitted it and the stiff-necks! In doing so, He even granted the Pharisees their inadequate self-assessment that they were healthy and righteous (Matthew 9:13).
These presumptuous types evoked the same “truth in love” as all the other sinners, it’s just a bit more spicy. We have missed the point completely if we begin to ignore the fact that when Jesus came to save the world and not to condemn the world, He wasn’t making exceptions when it came to the proud and “righteous” Pharisees.
So often we hear people cry foul, “you’re judging me” or “you aren’t being loving like Jesus” “you’re just like the religious leaders who crucified Jesus” and obviously there are times when that may be true but more times than not, those are the fussers who are trying to pay the ref. Obviously the cheaters are going to be unhappy unless they’re winning but that shouldn’t stop us from pulling back the curtains and exposing them to the bright light of truth. But what does that look like? For someone like me, it is easy to question why Jesus didn’t point out right then and there that these jokers were so far from righteousness.
Allow me to quote Francis Shaeffer at length, “At the point of tension the person is not in a place of consistency in his system, and the roof is built as a protection against the blows of the real world, both internal and external. It is like the great shelters built upon some mountain passes to protect vehicles from the avalanches of rock and stone which periodically tumble down the mountain. The avalanche, in the case of the non-Christian, is the real and the abnormal, fallen world which surrounds him. The Christian, lovingly, must remove the shelter and allow the truth of the external world and of what man is, to beat upon him. When the roof is off, each man must stand naked and wounded before the truth of what is. (Christian View of Philosophy and Culture, Francis A. Shaeffer, p. 140)”
Shaeffer goes on to say that for someone like this we don’t come galloping in with a dogmatic statement of the truth of the Scriptures rather the truth of the external world and the truth of what man himself is—a sinner. When this avalanche of truth barrels through it is quite enlightening. Think about Christ’s crucifixion, the religious leaders didn’t take His life, He gave it and He gave it for sinners, that’s you and me. Whether prostitute or Pharisee. Some look at the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and gloat just like the praying Pharisee, “At least I’m not like those religious leaders who crucified Jesus. I make my living as an ice cream truck driver.” These are the guys who handle truth like they handle a wet bar of soap in the shower—the guys who bring a wet noodle to a sword fight.