Of all the characters throughout the Gospels, the least relatable to me are the Pharisees. Those well-to-do, high-and-mighty, laa-dee-da, goody-two-shoes men who have taken their jobs of upholding the law (Their God-given law! The Church’s law! Man’s law!) so seriously that they do not see what we, some 2000 years later, have the full benefit of seeing:
They are killing God.
And so I look for the Pharisees around me, and I speak out against them when I see fit. “Get behind me, Satan!” I say. (Only it sounds more like, ” “That’s just stupid!” or “You are so blind to the Truth!” or “How can you say that?”)
And when I’ve successfully changed their hearts and minds, I walk away feeling triumphant in my battle. I have won! I have shown “them” the way of Truth! (Because I know it).
I am impressed with myself. And sometimes, I can see others are, too.
And I smile to myself, “Look what I’m doing for you, God!” I say. (And secretly, I think I’m his favorite).
The day I see what God’s love really looks like:
…the buzzing coud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up…. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves. -C.S. Lewis, from The Four Loves
Today I see that if this is what love looks like, I am more like the Pharisees than any other character. Me, still thinking God’s love is “earned” through careful score-keeping. Me, still thinking I can “see” God’s truth better than anyone else. Me, still thinking it is my duty (and my God-given right!) to uphold the Law.
But not willing to open my arms, and my mind, and my heart to those who think differently. Who live differently. Who sin differently. And who love differently than I do.
Not willing, despite the fact that I say I am.
Who else can I be in these stories, if not the Pharisees? Why am I so willing to see myself in any other character of these stories–even Judas, who at least has enough sense to just get rid of himself!–but not the Pharisees?
I don’t know…probably because it stinks to admit that I’m killing God?
I. am. killing. God.
And my breath catches at that realization.
I am a Pharisee.
And the thought sinks into my core. The awareness dawns that even though I am just now beginning to see the Pharisee in me, our Triune God has seen it there in me the whole time.
And I wonder at that for a while.
I am speechless.
The tears begin to fall, as I want so desperately to hate myself for God. But how can you hate yourself when God has commanded you only to love?
I don’t know how to remedy that. In fact, if I understand the stories right, I don’t even think *I* can.
But, what I see in Jesus on the cross, is an act of love.
“Follow me,” he says. And I want to.
What will my act of love be?
Today, it will be that I will go to liturgy, and I will kiss Jesus on the cross.
And I will ask for forgiveness. (Again).
And I will feel his love. (Again).
And I will accept his love. (Again).
And I will cry.
Because my heart spills over with this impossible realization:
I am a Pharisee…and he loves me, anyway.