One of the things I respect my parents for is their constant search for truth. If I could convince my dad that he was wrong, he would apologize and correct our family’s future accordingly. This was a blessing and a curse. It meant that others could do the same.
My dad had attended a Basic Youth Conflicts seminar back in the 1970s, so he was somewhat familiar with Bill Gothard when some friends told him that Bill Gothard had started a homeschooling program. We joined.
At first, we accepted everything, but then my parents realized that some of it was a bit overboard, so they began to tell us kids that they didn’t agree with everything, but we should study the Bible to learn what to believe for ourselves. My family lived the ATI (Advanced Training Institute) lifestyle in moderation.
We didn’t drink alcohol because it could cause others to stumble, although my parents agreed that it is not evil in all situations. We girls were allowed to wear pants, but they couldn’t be too tight. We read the King James version of the Bible (KJV), because, although the others were still the Word of God, they were just not as good a translation as the KJV. We always tried to learn more about Jesus and become more holy and perfect as he is, out of love for God. After all, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
I grew up wanting to help others. There are so many hurting people in the world, and I wanted to help them. I wanted to be Jesus to them — His hands and feet here on earth. I wanted to help bring those who didn’t know Him into contact with His love, to show them that He exists.
A recurring problem that I began to see was that so many Christians were so weak and self-focused that they didn’t have any energy left to help those around them. I wanted to help Christians fix their own problems, so that they, in turn, could help others. I wanted to be kind, and loving, and a refuge for others to talk about their problems.
A few years ago I began to see that Jesus wasn’t always kind and loving and a refuge in the storm. I realized that, quite often, he was recorded as being quite hateful and harsh, and I struggled to make that fit with my picture of a humble, kind savior. As I studied, I realized he was always kind to those who realized they were sinners, but he was unkind and angry with those who thought they had it all figured out. Jesus seemed to really, really dislike the Pharisees.
It made sense. After all, they had refused to believe him. They were so stuck in the old ways. They had added rules to the already long law of Moses. They persecuted the true believers who were following Jesus. They were proud, and God says that he resists the proud. Of course Jesus would resist them, too.
I remember once being at a restaurant and being served by a waiter with blue hair. My little brother, who was about three years old, asked the waiter, “Did you know God hates your hair?” I remember thinking how wonderful it was that the waiter heard the truth, without me even breaking social rules to tell him. I once asked a friend to adjust the clothing she wore when she came to my family’s home, so that she wouldn’t cause my brothers and dad to stumble. I used to think that people who drank alcohol would likely go to hell, because that was a sign of being a back-slidden Christian.
Over the last few months, I have realized that there are a few other things that describe the Pharisees too. They were the ones who were staying pure and doing the right things, who followed the rules, hated sin, and were living above reproach. They were the ones noticing when others messed up so they could help them “fix” their problems.
They were the ones who thought they had it all figured out, but Jesus called them “white-washed tombs”!
I thought I had it all figured out. I thought that following the rules would please God. But somehow, despite all their rule-following, despite all their seeking to do it right, the Pharisees had it all wrong.
The Bible does not say to us that others will see our standards and want to be like us. The Bible says they will see our love for one another. There might be nothing wrong with our rules, but are they hurting us? Do they make us think we are better than the “other Christians”? Do they convince us that we have no “beam” in our eye?
I was a Pharisee. Are you?