Friday, February 10, 2012

Maccabees to Pharisees to Paul

A story of fundamentalism: past, present, and future...

The Past:
Their name meant "Hammer". They were ancient revolutionary heroes of post-Captivity Israel. All looked up to them as martyrs, as leaders. They were faithful to God. They were synonymous of patriotism for their country.

They were called the Maccabees. They are the pride of Israel. They fought against the Hellenizing influences and emerged as the ruling body.

Generations passed. The original Maccabean revolters died. They passed their Law down to their children, and grandchildren. They instructed them to keep it.

The children of the Maccabees are now called "Pharisees". Known for their strict laws and adherence to the Torah, they were feared. They were on the highest religious pedestals.

But when Jesus came, He condemned them as hypocrites. "The descendants of the Maccabees, hypocrites?", the Pharisees wondered as they looked on at the unrecognized Messiah.

How in the world did the most respected degenerate into this condition?

1. Forgetting the Purpose
The Pharisees knew their Law. They debated in the finer points of the Torah. They added extra rules just to keep themselves from going near the fence.

They got... carried away.

Carried away in that they focused on the new rules instead of the underlying purpose. The finer points they had down, the weightier matters... not so much.

2. Faking It And Not Making It
The term Pharisee is synonymous to hypocrisy today. While they prayed in the corners in front of crowds for show, nothing was done for spiritual substance.

3. Carrying on the Name Rather than Building on It
The Pharisees relied on the previous reputation of the Maccabees, and instead of improving that reputation, have tarnished it. Yet they remained dependent on that name to inspire them and make excuses and remind the people of glories past. While they carried the name, they refused to build a better name.

4. Concerned with Power
Power is not graceful. At least, humanly speaking, power is not compatible with grace(oh, the wonder of the divine paradox intertwining both in Jesus!). We have so-called power structures, also known as hierarchies based on merit, "works", if you will. As one gains merit, one climbs the "corporate" power ladder, so to speak. While graceless power structures are necessary in governments and places of employment, it must be less so in our churches. The Pharisees grew increasingly concerned about control and manipulation of others for their own benefit rather than helping and loving.

5. Tightly-Knitted Clique-ing and In-Grouping
While the Pharisees accused Jesus of hanging out with the less desirable people of society, which consisted of tax collectors, prostitutes, the disabled, the diseased, and so on, they did not do anything to attempt to reach out to the same people and kept to themselves. Jesus did not condone the sins of the same crowd, however, His fellowship with them pushed the others to repentance and righteousness. The Pharisees used righteousness as a wall to safeguard their group; Jesus used it as a door.

Were the Pharisees more righteous than Jesus when the Pharisees forbade the sinners to join their little Sanhedrin, but the Saviour let them in into His circles? NO! Were the Pharisees immune to corruption now that they have quarantined themselves from the world? NO! They merely multiplied the power of corruption within themselves.

The Present:

Their name meant a strong stand for Christ. They stood tall in the battlefield against Modernism and Liberalism.

They were the Fundamentalists.

Today, they are reduced to a catchphrase that is associated with terrorists, fanaticism, and scandalous hypocrisy. How did this change come about?

We left our "old time religion", the pure religion talked about in James 1:27.

We focused on our rituals that disguised themselves as "standards", and left our real convictions.

We formed our own cliques and groups, to the point that we are accused of being a secret society and a cult.

We left our first love.

The Future:

A Pharisee rose up among the ranks. He persecuted those that strayed from the Torah with such zeal that he would be the equivalent of Hitler back then.

His name was Saul of Tarsus. You now know him as the Apostle Paul.

He calls himself the "Pharisee of Pharisees". Why do we then know him now as the greatest Christian who have ever lived?

Thus is my theory. If Fundamentalism should produce another "Pharisee of Pharisees"....

One who is trained in the Scriptures...

One who is zealous for the church...

I pray that he would shed the corrupted present shell of Fundamentalism and embrace its new future, a Fundamentalism emphasizing both the Son and Word of God and empowered by the Spirit of God.

A real Fundamentalism. A Fundamentalism that is based on Truth, both inside and out.

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