Friday, March 14, 2008

Ye Whited Sepulchres

Increasingly, I have heard those who are careful with the details of obedience referred to as Pharisaical, particularly when the speaker believes an item of obedience to be pointless (such as the skirt-wearing which I previously discussed). I've realized, in thinking about this, that the sin of the Pharisees was twofold and that neither aspect of their particular sin was their careful obedience. Most interesting to me, it is those sins that allowed them to be only nation that would crucify their God.

The first aspect of their sin is they created law which transgressed the law of God and then expected everyone else to live it. Multiple times in the New Testament, they watch for Jesus and His disciples to transgress the man-made law in order to deem them sinners. Take-away message 1) if you choose to follow a stricter law than that which the prophets have set forth, do not insist that all others follow that same law.

The second aspect is that they then used their created laws as a substitute for true righteousness and judged themselves more righteous than their neighbors. Judgment belongs to God. Take-away lesson 2) worry about your own righteousness, not others'. (Though that isn't to say not to preach God's principles, just not to judge application of those principles to another person unless God has specifically called you to do so.) Also, as important as it is to be obedient, obedience alone does not qualify a person for righteousness. Obedience should be a natural outgrowth of charity. Charity encompasses the weightier matters of the law Christ referenced. Take-away lesson 3) obey in love, not in resentment.

Obedience without that charity is empty. When a person is truly devoted to the Lord, they will long to obey the words of His servants, no matter how trivial they may seem at first. They will seek for things they can do to demonstrate their compassion and to purify their souls. As they strive for obedience, they will find the Spirit cleansing them and making them white, both inside and out. Not all who are white are whited sepulchres.

So, to those who love to accuse the carefully obedient of being Pharisees, I challenge you to find in your heart that charity and understanding for which you so constantly beg. You cannot see another person's heart. You cannot possibly know if they are truly whited sepulchres or if they are pure in heart, and woe unto you should you judge wrongly.

The only way to gain understanding and to judge righteously is to obey the voice of God's servants, no matter how tough it is to do so. Obedience is not easy, but it is a harsh and beautiful process. Through obedience, we are purified. Once purified, the windows of heaven open and we can finally understand. The Lord does not make excuses for His commandments, but He blesses those who obey.

"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."


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