Without a doubt, many Christians today fit into the mold of a Pharisee; they hold firmly to their rules and motions and neglect any true implementation of God’s teaching by revamping societal norms. Similarly, too many churches are simply places for the weekly gathering of Christians every Sunday rather than a congregation of Spirit-filled believers prepared to engage the world socially, bringing “every thought captive to obey Christ,” (II Cor. 10:5). To those who are offended by such a condemnation by Christ upon inauthentic communions are like the lawyers, who complained to Jesus in saying that, “When you say these things, you insult us too.” If we wish to acquire a godly and authentic body of Christ, we must set ourselves against such inauthenticity.
But then, how do we combat the rampant inauthenticity across Christian Church? Simple. We must echo Jesus Christ and how He dealt with those who opposed Him on social issues. What did Jesus say in the face of injustice? If we wish to become an authentic Church, we must preach an authentic message.
Authentic Christianity loves and adheres to God’s Word. “Whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him,” (I Jn. 2:5). The Word of God certainly includes things such as theological matters, the humanity and divinity of Christ, the formulation of Trinitarianism, and the offices of the Church; however, some matters require less of the mind and more of the heart and body.
An authentic Christian listens to the Word of God and reacts to it accordingly. For example, James, Jesus’ brother, wrote that the only “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world,” (Jam. 1:27). Notice that James does not describe pure and undefiled religion before God as “attending church services on Sunday and tithing ten percent of your income,” nor does he define it as “ritually observing particular rules of the Christian tradition in pursuit of righteousness. Rather, James asserts that the only pure form of religion acceptable to God is a one which cares for orphans and widows in distress.
Another point is that authentic Christianity is willing to make sacrifices. It is a Church willing to put others before themselves, to consider themselves not first, second, or third, but dead last. “This is My commandment,” Jesus Christ tells us, “that you love one another as I loved you,” (Jn. 15:13 NRSV). This commandment requires Christians to dedicate their entire lives to loving those whom they come in contact with, because God’s love for us is utterly irreplaceable; it is a standard to which we are held to. Moreover, an authentic church understands this command as a challenge for us to make a difference in social issues.
When the poor and needy cry for help, or when the homeless beg in the streets, we are not supposed to shrug our shoulders and simply wish they could have a better life, if they were only to try. Such a response does not echo the heart of Jesus; in fact, it is dangerously close to the prayer of the Pharisee, who “standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector [who was praying next to him in the same temple]. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income,’” (Luke 18:10-12 NRSV). To assume to know the past and heart of an individual is foolishness. In addition, to presume that one should not aid the poor because of some external driving factor is unbiblical. Our thoughts when encountering the poor and needy on the streets should echo those of the tax collector who was praying in the very same temple as the Pharisee, who “standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, [said Jesus] this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted,” (Lk. 18:13-14 NRSV).
In conclusion, humility, love, and action are key factors in preserving an authentic body of Christ. Without humbling ourselves, loving others, and helping those in need, we become unfaithful, legalistic, ritualistic fakers of the faith who do not herald the spirit of Christ into the world. Therefore, let us love one another, as Christ has loved us. Let our prayers and actions regarding the poor and lowly mimic not those of the Pharisee but the tax collector’s.
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What does your perspective of money reveal about you?