Yes, this is a deliberate posting of a (very loosely) Star Wars – flavoured post on the day that the new Star Wars movie, ‘Rogue One’, is released!
I sometimes wonder if the ‘family resemblance’ of certain people who identify as Christians is more towards the Dark Side than the Light.
Throughout this post, please bear in mind that, as always, I am not referring to the average Jesus-loving churchgoer, but to those who consider it their duty to poke into others’ lives with their judgementalism and such like.
You see, Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven“. I’ve written about that here. Someone who does these things is showing the ‘family resemblance’ of Father God’s Kingdom, and that was what Jesus was talking about.
This week, though, I have been looking at the FB pages of several people whom I have seen on there and on forums whom I would term ‘nasty Christians’. Not that they are bad people as such; I used to be like that once upon a time and I know what it’s like to be dogmatic, unbending and rigid in my beliefs; held to an artificial set of behavioural Rules made up by humans (Mk 7:6-7). I’m not saying they are literally nasty people, but that they do come across as harsh and judgemental, making the Gospel unattractive with their judgementalism and sin-policing. They make faith in God just as unattractive as did the Pharisees of Jesus’s day, and they ‘shut the doors of Heaven in men’s faces’ (Mt 23:13)
Now, in a kind of antithesis to how Jesus said ‘you will be called the sons of my Father in heaven’ to His disciples because they reflected His Father’s character, He also chided the Pharisees of His day when He said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies“. (Jn 8:44 (NASB))
The devil is the ‘father of lies’; he’s also known as the ‘Accuser’ (Rev 12:10); the ‘Adversary’ (1Pet5:8 (ESV)) and the ‘thief’ (Jn 10:10).
The thing is that if you look at the actions of these so-called (and I use that phrase in its true sense) ‘nasty Christians’ who do ‘sin police’ with their victims, being their Accuser, being their Adversary, threatening them with Hell, feeding them with a false gospel (i.e. lies) – then let me ask you: whose fatherhood do they most reflect? I would say they reflect the characteristics of the enemy, the devil, more than they do those of Jesus’s Father God. These people condemn other people, and accuse them of sins. Who does that sound like to you? Clue: the last time I looked, accusation is the job of the enemy!
Now, compare that to the way in which real Christ-followers simply love others. “By this will all men know that you are My disciples – that you love each other” (Jn 13:35). Not just your little inner circle of family or people that agree with you (although of course it is them too), but everyone. The fruit of the Spirit called ‘Love’ applies to everyone. Otherwise, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Mt 5:46) No, Jesus meant to love everyone – just like He did – which means to lay down one’s life in service to others. This is what happens when Jesus is allowed to live His life through the believer by the power of His Spirit. It just comes naturally; if you have to force it, you’re not doing it right! And that’s how people will know that you are His disciples, not by being a ‘nasty’ Pharisee!
For those gentle believers battered by the actions of Pharisees, then, I would say this. Jesus said that “The thief comes not but to steal, kill and destroy” (Jn 10:10). The Pharisees are like ‘their father’ in that they steal your assurance (or at least they try to, by challenging your ‘salvation status’), they kill your joy (because Pharisees are killjoys by nature!), and they destroy your peace (with their accusations). Encountered someone like that recently, either online or in real life? Then you can be sure that because their fruits are bad – and they are indeed bad fruits! – you do not need to agree with anything that they say/write to you. You don’t need to be afraid of these people, because Jesus said in Matthew 6:20, “Store your treasures in heaven, where … thieves do not break in and steal” – and that (the thieves) includes them! The Kingdom of God takes all sorts, yes, but those people, who are narrow-minded enough to believe naively that they have ‘got it all right’ to the exclusion of others, don’t get to have any say in your eternal destiny! They are not the gatekeepers. It doesn’t matter what they say; the fact remains that they have no say in your, or anyone else’s, salvation! Always remember that the treasure you have is untouchable by those who would seek to deny you it. It really is in that place where ‘thieves cannot break in and steal’. Your place at the table is reserved, and no amount of men’s proclamations can ever take you off the guest list.
But I also have to point out that even for Pharisees, this ‘father issue’ can have a happy ending!
You see, Jesus didn’t mean that the Pharisees were literally children of the enemy. He was meaning that they reflect more the character of the enemy than they do the character of Father God, as I explained above. But, you know what? Jesus, for all His diatribes against them, actually loved the Pharisees. In His way, He was dealing with them in a similar manner to how they dealt with others; imposing their Laws on them and reminding them of how important it was to fulfil the entire Law (Mt 5:19). I believe He did this in order to use the Law for its original intention – to show the futility of human effort in trying to please God by obeying Rules, as is put another way in the quote below:
In fact, for some of them, there actually is an historical record of that happy ending! There’s a fairly obscure little passage in Acts 15:5 that says that some of the believers were in fact Pharisees, which means that they did come to believe in Jesus at some point. And even in the passage I mentioned above, they were still pushing their legalism agendas! It just goes to show that it really takes all sorts in the Church, and that the learning of the ways of Grace can take time; as far as I know, that passage in Acts is set in about 50AD (nearly 20 years after Jesus’s ascension), so those Pharisees had probably either never/not yet learned, or slipped back into their legalistic ways (it’s easy to do; this is the natural human inclination!). But whatever the case, they were ‘believers’.
And so, this tells me that there is still hope for Pharisees, even those of today. (In fact there must be; I was myself one, once upon a time, before Jesus set me free!) Although they may well find it hard to slip their legalistic mindset, they are still partaking of the Kingdom, albeit probably in a limited way as they don’t appreciate the full freedom they have!
In fact, I wrote a piece nearly a year ago which gives you a simple ‘acid test’ to determine whether your fruits are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Whether they are ‘Pharisee’ or ‘Grace-based’. Click here to go to that piece – you might find it helpful!
So, if you have felt your spirit touched by this blog post; if the Spirit has been prodding you about whether you are behaving, speaking and forum posting nastily – more like the enemy than like Father God – be encouraged too. You can be free of all that need to correct others! You can be free to be the person you were meant to be; a child of your Father and not ‘of the enemy’! Maybe check out this blog post for more ideas – and walk out into your freedom. Freedom you were born for. Freedom that reflects your true Father!
If there’s anyone reading this blog who does not know the significance of the featured (header) image for this blog post, do not continue reading.
If you do know the significance, then of course you’ll know that the picture shows the scene from Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader tells ‘Luke Skywalker that Vader is in fact Luke’s father. The classic line ‘No! I am your father!’ – the ‘Big Reveal’ – is of course one of the most iconic moments in the entire Star Wars saga.