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Picking on the Sins We Don’t Struggle With

Picking on the Sins We Don’t Struggle With

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But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. Luke 11:42

Having been sober for a couple years, it’s easy to see my recovery as a major life accomplishment upon which I can sit back and rest. I’m sober. There’s the evidence of my amazing faith. I wear my sobriety proudly as if not being intoxicated was all that Jesus asked of his followers.

As Christians, we often do this. We hold up the sins we’re not struggling with right now as the evidence of our faith. What sets my life apart as a Christian? Well, I don’t drink, smoke, swear, or do drugs. I’ve really sacrificed a lot for God. We proudly tout the things we don’t do as the sum of our Christianity. We may even take our non-sins one step further, looking down on those who do drink or smoke. Not only do I not struggle that way, but I condemn those who do.

In today’s passage, Jesus exposed the fallacy of this pseudo-faith. Chastising the Pharisees, Jesus called them hypocrites. They obeyed the little rules that were easy to follow. They made superficial sacrifices, which they proudly displayed for all to see. They did so only to elevate themselves. They failed however, to love God and they failed love their neighbors. Loving God and others would have required real self-sacrifice, which they were not willing to do. They professed to follow God but in reality, they followed only their voracious appetite for self-adulation.

In calling out the Pharisees for following only the easy commands, Jesus wasn’t giving the green light to ignore those commands. Avoiding or abandoning destructive behavior will assuredly be a step in our faith walk. The sum of our faith though, is not simply the stuff we don’t do. God asks us to leave behind our drug addiction and reach out to help others. He asks us to abandon ourselves and follow him.

The kind of faith that is just a bunch of bad stuff we don’t do, isn’t really faith. It’s just selfish, prideful legalism masquerading as discipleship. Authentic faith means humbly surrendering our will so that we may do the good works for which God has made us. In simply condemning the sins with which we don’t struggle, we act like Pharisees. In abandoning our way to follow Christ, we act like Christians.

 

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