May 20, 2014

Pharisee Lover

By Brittany Tedesco

"The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Rembrandt

I´ve read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John more times than I can remember. And though I´d glean something new every time, one thing I would always come away with: Jesus is a friend of sinners. . . not so much of Pharisees. By sinners, I mean people who recognize their sin, separation from God, and need for a savior. The prodigal son who runs home to his father´s outstretched arms.

“Glad I´m not like the Pharisees,” I´d think as I´d read through those passages.

But. . . I was, actually. I was just blind, like Pharisees often are.

Pharisees are judgmental, always spying out the specks in their neighbors´ eyes. Their critical comments about others are often couched in “funny,” sarcastic quips. Makes them feel “put together” to put others down. They´d probably deny it, but all this judging of others can make them think they´re on “God´s side,” doing “God´s work.”

But did you know, dear friend, that Jesus is not only a lover of sinners, but of Pharisees as well? Even my original assumption about Him was wrong.

“Son you are always with me, and all that I have is yours,” says the father tenderly to the sulking oldest son in the Prodigal Son story.

Nicodemus talking to Jesus by William Brassey Hole

When high-falutin´ Pharisee, Nicodemus, sneaks out to see Jesus under cover of night, Jesus doesn´t bristle that Nicodemus was ashamed to go to Him in the daylight. Instead He patiently explains to him what it means to be born again.

You see, all are precious in His sight. Persecutors of Christians included. Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee whom Jesus saved while he was on his way to persecute more Christians, isn´t just an extreme example from days of old. Stuff like that happens all the time today.

In her upcoming book, Christian Aid Mission supporter and author, Rachel Reed, writes about how the Chinese government sends out spies to “infiltrate underground churches in an attempt to catch Christians in an act of subversion.” She continues “Stories abound, however, about the conversion of these spies who encounter the love of Christ in a church body and confess their sins openly. . . Paul-like conversions happen every day.”

Saint Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna

Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group that seeks, among other things, to eradicate Christianity from Nigeria, has finally caught the world´s attention with their mass kidnapping stunt. For the past five or so years, they´ve blown up churches. . . or waited outside a church gathering to open fire on the exiting Christians. They´ve killed thousands.

And while the world knows not what to do. . . besides take to Twitter to #bringbackourgirls. . . native missionaries assisted by Christian Aid Mission have remained at their fields throughout the horror, despite the very real danger to their own lives.

Yes, they´re there to comfort the hurting who´ve lost friends and family members to the brutality, but they´re also there for Pharisees. . . those who think they´re doing the bidding of their god, Allah.

You see, three of these Pharisees put down their weapons and gave their lives to Jesus Christ because of the testimony of these native believers who did not condemn them, but opened their arms to welcome them into God´s family. One of these former terrorists paid dearly—his wife and children were murdered by the other radicals when they discovered his faith.

The three are now being sheltered, cared for, and discipled by those who follow our awesome Savior, lover of sinners. . . and Pharisees too.

Note: the situation in Nigeria is dire. Your gift will put funding directly into the hands of native missionaries committed to reaching the lost for Christ in the midst of the bloodshed.