“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?””
Mark 2:23-24 NIV
The church people…
The ones who were supposed to know better…
The ones who considered themselves holy…
The ones who went to church school and memorized the Bible…
These Pharisees got hung up on appearances.
These Pharisees that were so caught up with the outside of the cup rather than the inside…(Matthew 23:25)
These hypocrites and actors confront Jesus because His disciples were doing something that wasn’t churchy…
How often do we identify as the Pharisees?
(And maybe we don’t even realize it…)
How often have we been overly critical of other church members?
How often have we criticized visitors at church or people in church who perhaps didn’t look or act like we think they should?
They just weren’t “churchy” enough.
Perhaps we don’t say it directly to them (because we can be cowardly critics) but we utter it under our breath or to our spouses after we say our amens and we are in our vans headed to Sunday lunch.
Jesus walks with what appears to be a bunch of unruly disciples.
and they are doing something that the Pharisees didn’t like. They thought surly disciples should act better. Perhaps Jesus’ reputation was on the line…but Jesus could care less what those Pharisees thought about him or his disciples. They were knit-pickers…fruit inspectors instead of producers of fruit…
Do we know fruit inspectors in our churches? In our corps?
In our Divisions? In our Territories? Are there knit-pickers among you who have driven people away from church? Are you the knit-picker? The fruit inspector? Did God really call you to do that? Who gave you the authority? Are you God?
If we are honest we have played the fruit inspector.
We have assumed that power and authority when it really wasn’t ours to assume. We have unconsciously or consciously judged people based on their appearance and I hope we recognize it and have asked for forgiveness for it.
To the fruit inspectors in the pews who are unrepentant I say shame on you! You hypocrite. You Pharisee. You are what is wrong with the church today.
To those who have been criticized and wrongly judged because of appearances…because you were pickin’ fruit on Sunday (or whatever it may have been)…I want to say I’m sorry that you were hurt, that you were judged and that those who took it upon themselves did that to you.
What is in your heart?
Yes, there will always be “church etiquette”.
Yes, there will always be church politics.
Yes, there will always be spoken or unspoken rules of church (for better or worse).
But what matters most in what is in your heart.
Do you love Jesus?
Do you strive to live for Him?
Do you desire to love others and help others to see Jesus?
Man’s laws aren’t necessarily God’s laws.
Church sometimes puts God in a box and try to make Him conform to our desires and patterns of “what is acceptable”.
We have interpreted what God wants, and sometimes we have failed.
God’s grace is for everyone.
God’s grace covers our grain pick’n…and our lack of understanding of churchy politics. God’s grace sometimes turns man’s concepts and authority on its head. I’m not saying that we should celebrate anarchy in the Church, but I am saying that we sometimes place the practice of worship and what is proper (in appearance) before the act of ACTUALLY worshipping God.
So woe to the fruit-inspectors out there.
Woe to the appearance judges.
Woe to the gossipers and slanderers.
Woe to the hypocrites and outward do-gooders just to be seen.
(That’s a lot of woes – but perhaps its needed)
He knows your heart, and I know He is not pleased.
What I must caution all of us cheering on this post is this:
Be careful that you aren’t the fruit-inspector.
It is easy to say “ah yes – those people”…and then realize we too have fallen into this trap.
Guard your heart.
Be aware of the trappings of becoming a Pharisee.
Be careful that your heart, mind, soul, body is God’s and God’s alone.
If this resonates in you – good!
If you have been hurt by fruit-inspectors please know this – you aren’t alone and that the Church is more than those small, narrow minded few. You are loved. You are God’s child. He calls you by name. He desires for you to worry more about your heart and to disciple others, more than what you look like and how you dress.
Something more to ponder today.