I think that Pharisees have gotten a bum rap.
Just think about it. When someone is called a Pharisee today, the implication is that they are harsh, legalistic–and, worst of all, judgmental. Especially judgmental towards anyone who doesn’t agree with their beliefs and perceptions.
In some cases, that’s true–and unfortunate.
But in the best sense of the word, we need Pharisees! A true Pharisee is someone who works to preserve the traditions–who helps us see the foundation on which we have built. They are the ones who keep us from “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” If the church had no Pharisees, we would be blowing back and forth with every new idea that comes along. Pharisees help us look at those new ideas and struggle with whether they are indeed new revelation and spiritual growth–or whether they are just a fad.
The problem is that sometimes Pharisees are too much like the rest of us! Their goal–that of preserving the foundation–is an important one, but the tradition may become more important than the goal…and that rigidity may keep them from seeing the new light that God wants to share (just as we may find ourselves so determined that God calls us to change that we ignore our foundation.)
We need each other. We need the Pharisees to keep us grounded–and they need those of us who are willing to change in order to challenge the church to accept God’s continuing light and revelation. Learning to live together from these differing perspectives isn’t easy, but if we can learn to see the value in each others’ understandings…to listen to each other…to value our diversity and yet work towards the common goal of God’s community of wholeness and reconciliation, then we can bear a powerful witness!
Let’s join together…