I was sitting in a church training session. It was a meeting called for a Saturday for church officers, staff, and ministry leaders. We had a guest speaker – a nationally known minister from one of the main Bible Belt cities.
He didn’t have a reputation as Joe Cool, but that’s what he was projecting. Tattered jeans, sandals, speaking in that slightly sardonic way that connotes superiority. I looked around to see if I was the only one reacting this way, and I could see that I wasn’t. People were surprised, a little shocked, disappointed.
And then he dropped a couple of four-letter words so casually that it was clear this was how he talked. Hip. With-it. Cool. Relevant.
Because we were polite, no said anything or made a stir. He was a friend of one of our pastors. We should be modeling hospitality.
Fortunately, the meeting broke up not long afterward.
On my way home, still somewhat upset, a driver in front of me pulled a dumb maneuver that could have ended badly. I yelled a word I shouldn’t have yelled. The windows were up, so no one heard me. Well, no one, that is, except me and the Lord.
It wasn’t “as bad” as I had heard at the meeting, but I can’t quibble here. It was still the wrong thing to come out of my mouth.
And it didn’t excuse the visiting minister and what he had said. But it was a rather immediate reminder that I could fall prey to the exact same problem, even if the reasons were different. I wasn’t trying to be relevant or cool; I was angry. But it was still wrong.
“If we refuse to identify ourselves as sinners as well as saints, we risk the danger of deceiving ourselves about out sin and becoming like the self-righteous Pharisee,” says Jerry Bridges in The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness.
I was exemplifying the behavior of the traditional Pharisee – condemning vulgar speech while essentially doing the same thing (“at least I wasn’t speaking to a roomful of people in ministry”). Our visiting minister was exemplifying the behavior of a “reverse Pharisee” – showing he could be just as relevant to the culture as anyone else, and indirectly suggesting he was more “with it” than the people he was speaking to.
But we were both still being Pharisees.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re discussing The Discipline of Grace. To see other posts on this chapter, “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector,” please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.
Illustration by Dawn Hudson via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.