Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Larry Pray

Monday, November 24

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
—Luke 15: 1-2

Years ago, I found myself in the midst of an argument about definitions. The woman I was talking with said that everything hinged on definitions. I countered that it was the broad view of life that mattered most, and that to waste time quibbling about definitions was exactly that—a waste of time. It turns out her point was well taken.

In Bible study, knowing what a Pharisee is, and isn't, makes all the difference in the world. Often portrayed as the unrelenting adversaries of Jesus who were caught up in enforcing the letter rather than the spirit of the law, it was easy to judge and then dismiss them.

But one day I learned to understand the Pharisees differently. They wanted to extend the sense of the sacred beyond worship into the full sphere of daily life. If worship is to last more than an hour, if we are to live with God 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there must be some rules of the road. Paying attention to one's company is certainly one of them. It is, after all, what every parent tries to advise his or her children: Love all people, we say, but we hope they will stay away from “bad” friends.

The more I read, the clearer it became that, had I lived in Jesus’ day, I might well have been a Pharisee. I too would have wanted to preserve and respect the sacred. And I too would have paid attention to the rules of conduct that made such an endeavor possible. In short, there is little in them that I cannot also identify in myself.

Jesus knew exactly what he was saying when he asked us not to judge. When we suspend judgment, and learn from definition, we may well discover that truth has been waiting for our arrival for a very long time indeed.

We confess how easy it is to fall prey to guilt by association, and to judge others. Forgive us, again; teach us, again; and renew us, again; that we might live a life that reflects your love for all creation.