For the past couple of days, we’ve looked at two of the four groups of “untouchables” whom Jesus willingingly touched — lepers and Samaritans, and today, I want to look at the third — Pharisees. Interestingly, when we read the gospels, the religious leaders and teachers of the law often appear more villainous than the most violent criminals. Perhaps this is because they were constantly trying to trap the Lord. Yet despite their general hostility toward Him and His teaching, He wanted them to understand the truth, so He welcomed them to learn of His heart. He responded to their accusations with bold words, yet He went out of His way to let them know that He cared about them. For instance, He met with Nicodemus at night — when his fellow Pharisees wouldn’t see — to extend to him the invitation to repent and come into the Kingdom of God. Yet despite making Himself available, He didn’t get very far with the elite religious class. Though they should have embraced His coming, their pride made them fear losing relevance, so they shunned His message and became untouchable. For us, looking at their behavior should beg the question, Who are the Pharisees in our midst today? While some have a different perspective, I believe they are the pastors, spiritual leaders, and other believers who hold rules and regulations in higher esteem than people. Because legalism is damaging, it’s natural to shy away from these types in order to avoid hurt, but as grace-filled Christians, the Holy Spirit gives us the compassion and humility to love them right where they’re at.
My friend, though the thought may be unpleasant, you have the power to touch today’s Pharisees with the tender mercy of Jesus. Those who are the most dogmatic about adhering to the law — and making sure that others do too — are often in the greatest amount of pain. In their attempts to bring a sense of control to their lives, they make enemies of anyone who doesn’t fit their mold, and this causes harm to the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, because you’re firmly rooted and established in God’s perfect love, you can extend His cheek-turning, extra-mile walking grace to the least deserving, and turn their focus to the One who welcomes them just as they are.