Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When the Heroes are the Villains

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Imagine a world where people are gracious towards each other as God has been gracious to us, what a difference it would make! Unfortunately, we Christians sometimes fail to grasp the grace we have received from God, and thus fail to show grace towards each other. Why are the recipients of grace so blind to grace?

From children's Sunday school to adult's Bible study, sermons, and even seminary classes, we are taught to explore the Bible through the lenses of those heroes in the Bible. Especially when it comes to the New Testament, we are led to identify ourselves with the apostles and early Christians.

Therefore, when we read Jesus and Paul's dealing with the Pharisees, it's OUR heroes dealing with THEIR false beliefs. We mistakenly believe that being Christian automatically makes us poor in spirit, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and pure in heart – unlike THOSE Pharisees. We Christians so often fail to grasp the sinfulness of ourselves.

Christians can't keep categorizing the Pharisee problems as THEIR problems. As we believe the cultural and timely transcendence of the scriptures, we believe that what Paul wrote to the Romans, Ephesians and Corinthians, he wrote for us, too. In the same way, we must take heed that what Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, He rebuked us also.

We are as much the older brother in the Prodigal Son as we are the younger son; we are as much the Pharisee, who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other men..." (Luke 18:11, ESV), as the repentant tax collector; we are as much the priest and Levite in the Good Samaritan as the good Samaritan.

As much as we like to identify ourselves with the heroes in the Bible, we are not Abraham. We don't have the faith to sojourn without a destination. We are Lot at best, who hurried to settle in an abundant land. We are not David. We don't have the patience and courage to wait as a refugee for God's vindication. We are more like Absalom, who demanded instant justice, and sought vengeance with his own hands.

We are not Peter, with whom Christ built the Church on. We struggled even to love the ones in our own local churches, let alone those in God's universal Church, and those not in the Church. We are Ananias and Sapphira, who fooled the Holy Spirit and themselves for the good name. We are not Paul. Most of us have not been imprisoned, beaten, lashed and stoned for the sake of Christ, but we have unwittingly encouraged the beating and shaming of the marginalized. We are the new Jewish converts, who couldn't believe that they were saved only by faith in Christ through grace.

No, we are not our Lord Christ Jesus. We fell so far from the likeness of Him. We are the Nazarenes, who would not admit that they were the lepers, and were in need of Christ's healing. We are the Pharisees, who would not accept a Messiah that didn't meet their expectation. We are Pontius Pilate, whom though stood in the very presence of the Truth, asked, "What is truth?"

I think it is only when we can identify ourselves with the villains in the Bible that we may begin to see the plank in our own eyes. It is when we are able to see the plank in our own eyes, we'll be able to truly understand God's grace. Well, in fact, I believe that we need a lot more than identifying ourselves with the villains in the Bible to understand our own sinfulness, but…this is a start.

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