Ed Stetzer has a great post over at The Exchange that really resonated with some issues that I find myself dealing with and I thought it’d be a good thing to share a bit here:
Along the way I would start a Bible study while in high school, but it sometimes seemed that no one was as committed to it as I was. By college, I was a youth pastor, and still felt more committed to the process than everyone else. This frustration continued into pastoral ministry.
As I moved into roles where I trained other pastors, I found that I was not alone in my frustration. Many pastors feel the same way.
The reality is that the Pharisaical spirit often hides in fields of high expectations, and we pastors are often the source of those expectations.
As pastors and church leaders in general, we are often disappointed with the spiritual journey of many people in our care. We don’t understand why they don’t take the faith as seriously as we do. We often get to thinking that they do not truly want to grow in Christ.
“Why? Why was no one else as committed as I was?” we utter in frustration.
At this point we must stop, look in the mirror, and ask ourselves, “Wait… Why was I putting myself above others, wondering why they weren’t measuring up to my standard of passion and intensity in discipleship?”
I wonder how Jesus dealt with the issue—seeing their lack of commitment so evident among his disciples. And, perhaps that is the answer. After all, while we are comparing ourselves to others, we need to remember that none of us measure up to Jesus.
And no one expects us to.
That’s the key—Jesus gives us grace and calls us to grace, and that’s the answer to the problem of phariseeism in my heart.
Along the way, without even recognizing it, a disciple becomes a Pharisee.
Passion is good—becoming pharisaical is not good.
As I was reading about his own progression from high expectations to bitterness and pharisaical thoughts, it reminded me of this wonderful section from The Peacemaker:
If you look for something bad in another person, you will usually be able to find it. On the other hand, if you look for what is good, you are likely to find that too–and then more and more that is good.
As you regain a more balanced view of the other person, you will often find it easier to overlook minor offenses. I have experienced this process many times in my marriage. One day Corlette said something that really hurt me. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember going out into the back yard a few minutes later to rake leaves. The more I dwelt on her words, the more deeply I slid into self-pity and resentment. I was steadily building up steam to go back into the house and let her know how wrong she was. But then God brought Philippians 4:8 to my mind.
Ha! I thought. There’s nothing noble, right, or lovely about the way she’s treating me! But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t give up. The verse would not go away; it kept echoing in my mind. Finally, to get God off my back, I grudgingly conceded that Corlette is a good cook. This small concession opened the door to a stream of thoughts about my wife’s good qualities. I recalled that she keeps a beautiful home and practices wonderful hospitality. She has always been kind toward my family, and she never missed an opportunity to share the gospel with my father (who eventually put his trust in Christ just two hours before he died). I realized that Corlette has always been pure and faithful, and I remembered how much she supports me through difficult times in my work. Every chance she gets, she attends the seminars I teach and sits smiling and supportive through hours of the same material (always saying she has learned something new). She is a marvelous counselor and has helped hundreds of children. And she even took up backpacking because she knew I loved it! I realized that the list of her virtues could go on and on.
While Ken is specifically applying Philippians 4:8 to conflict in this context, it can easily be applied whenever we feel that bitterness over unmet expectations (like a lack of passion) creeping in. It’s my hope that we all strive to look at the noble, right, and lovely things in one another and pay attention to the hypocrite that can live within.
I heartily encourage you to read Stetzer’s post in it’s entirety here.
image credit: JuliaF