Announcer: Hello and welcome to the Taco Tuesday Theology Show with your host, Danny Powell! For many of us, going through life in an increasingly secular world is proving a challenge to navigate. Each week, we take your questions about modern life and answer them using the lessons revealed in the scriptures. Now, grab yourself a taco and get to this week’s question!
Question: How do you handle dealing with friends and family members who comment on your Christian lifestyle stating that “you live your life as if you think you’re better than everyone else?”
Danny: This is an interesting question in that I can think of 3 different scenarios where one’s family or friends might tell someone that that person thinks they are better than everyone else. The three scenes that immediately come to my mind are these:
- One actually believes they are better than everyone else, this is usually someone that is legalistic about their faith and likes to point out to everyone what they are doing wrong and someone correctly points that out, or,
- Other people incorrectly think someone thinks they are better than everyone else because of their preconceived notions of what a Christian is, or,
- The ones doing the accusing are feeling convicted of their own actions and resent that your life’s example is pointing that out, whether directly or indirectly.
There is certainly an overlap between all three of the possibilities. Let’s start out by saying the Christian ought to never be thought of in these terms. The main precursor of being a follower of Christ is the realization and admission that one is sinful and cannot do life without a Savior. Remember in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. By our own admission, we understand that we are sinners and that we cannot ever be good enough on our own. The Apostle Paul, the man who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament and the majority of our theology wrote this about himself in Romans chapter 7, verses 15 to 19:
Scripture Reading (Rachel): “For I don’t know what I am doing. For I don’t practice what I desire to do; but what I hate, that I do. But if what I don’t desire, that I do, I consent to the law that it is good. So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For desire is present with me, but I don’t find it doing that which is good. For the good which I desire, I don’t do; but the evil which I don’t desire, that I practice.”
Danny: Paul was writing specifically about how hard it is to live up to the expectations of the Lord. If the Apostle Paul had such a difficult time doing what is right, what hope do I have? The scribes and the Pharisees were known to actually think they were better than everyone else because of their meticulous observance of the Law of Moses. The believer that actually believes they are better than other people is as guilty as those scribes and Pharisees.
Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 18 verses 9 to 14:
Scripture Reading (Rachel): “He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others. “Two men went up into the temple to pray; one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this: ‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortionists, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn’t even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.””
Danny: Proverbs 30:12 states “There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth.” Once we begin to believe our own righteousness, we are lost. Remember what the Scripture teaches us about Jesus Christ:
“For him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, WEB)
Being mindful of this teaching, the true follower of Christ does not think more of themselves than they ought.
The second scenario is people say you think your Christian beliefs make you better than everyone else, not because you do, but because of their preconceived notions about Christians. This is because of the scribes and Pharisees they have encountered in the past. One of my pastors years ago refused to participate in the annual right to life abortion protest here in town. It wasn’t because he supported the practice, he detested it, but he said it is because the people going into the clinics are our mission field. How can he expect a young woman that’s hurting and remorseful to listen to anything he might have to offer when she already feels judged and condemned because she saw him at a protest yelling at her?
Phillip Yancey writes in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace, about a prostitute he invited to church:
“Church! Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d make me feel worse.”
Reading through the New Testament, I read lots of times where Jesus interacted with publicly known sinners. There is the story of the woman caught in the very act of adultery:
Scripture Reading (Rachel): “Now very early in the morning, he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him. He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman taken in adultery. Having set her in the middle, they told him, “Teacher, we found this woman in adultery, in the very act. Now in our law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. What then do you say about her?” They said this, testing him, that they might have something to accuse him of. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he looked up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.” Again, he stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground. They, when they heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning from the oldest, even to the last. Jesus was left alone with the woman where she was, in the middle. Jesus, standing up, saw her and said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way. From now on, sin no more.” (John 8:2-11)
Danny: Those scribes and Pharisees were well within their rights under the Law of Moses to stone that woman. They were doing what they believed to be the right thing. The Scripture doesn’t imply that she didn’t commit adultery. From the text, it is clear that she indeed committed adultery. Jesus, a Rabbi, should have joined those condemning the woman. But instead, His response is not what anyone would have reasonably expected. Rather than joining them, He does something entirely unexpected. He starts writing on the ground with His finger. The Scriptures don’t record what Jesus was writing in the sand. We can only speculate what He was writing. However, the end of this story is the interesting thing: “where have your accusers gone? … then neither will I”. Christ Jesus, Son of God, Lord of the Universe, the ONE person qualified to judge or condemn this woman, told this sinner that He neither accuses nor condemns her. Yes, He did tell her to “go and sin no more,” but that isn’t how He started the interaction with her. First, He saved her.
What about this story of Jesus hanging out with sinners?
Scripture Reading (Rachel): “After these things he went out and saw a tax collector named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and said to him, “Follow me!” He left everything and rose up and followed him. Levi made a great feast for him in his house. There was a great crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining with them. Their scribes and the Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:27-32)
Danny: Tax collectors were one of the most hated groups of people amongst the Jews. They were considered traitors, thieves, and extortionists. The tax collectors were Jews that collaborated with Rome to collect tax money and many were known for extracting more tax than was due padding their own pockets. Jesus dared to dine with them! Imagine that! What would His reaction to this situation be today? Would Jesus go and dine with a group that is hated by people now? Would Jesus eat dinner with an alcoholic or an addict?
I cannot find any example of Jesus telling someone other than the ultra-religious that they needed to clean up before they could approach Him or before He could approach them. Always, Jesus meets a need before He tells them to sin no more. The question now is how do we deal with friends and family that believe we think we are above them when we understand that we definitely are in no better condition except for salvation through Christ Jesus? Paul gives good advice in the twelfth chapter of Romans:
Scripture Reading (Rachel): “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21, NASB)
Danny: Remember that Jesus was and is a friend of sinners! He hangs out with prostitutes and drunks. Yet, we know that He was without sin. How can we love the sinner without endorsing sin? Jesus used the analogy of a doctor who tries to cure people of disease. The doctor does not like the disease and does not condone the fact it exists in the patient’s life, nor does he want to catch the disease. His association with the sick person is for the express purpose of trying to help them eliminate the disease.
Jesus associated with sinners at morally neutral places. There are no examples in which Jesus frequented brothels to teach or preach. Likewise, we should not conclude that befriending sinners means we should go into bars or attend wild parties to try to find people to reach. We reach out to the lost at other times and other places, where they are more likely to be receptive and where we are not so likely to be tempted to participate in or appear to justify sin.
The third scene we want to talk about is when people accuse us of thinking our Biblical world view makes us think we are better than them even when that thought has little to nothing to do with you. You may have not even exhibited any behavior that could be considered self-righteous to this person. The problem is they are comfortable in their sin and don’t want it exposed. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” He goes on to state that we, His followers are also the light. From the book of John, chapter 3, verse 19 to 21:
Scripture Reading (Rachel): “This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn’t come to the light, lest his works would be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God.”” (John 3:19-21, WEB)
Danny: In John, we read where Jesus refers to Satan as the “prince of this world”. In second Corinthians Paul refers to the prince of this world as the god, little g, of this world and writes:
“in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:4, WEB)
All we can do in these situations is to continue to live in the light, to pray for those people, and to continuously love them just as God loves us. Peter says in his epistle that love covers a multitude of sins.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to this episode of Taco Tuesday Theology. If you have a question you’d like us to answer from a Biblical world view, please go to our website, www.tacotuesdaytheology.com and click on the “Send Message” button. You can send the message right from your smartphone or computer. Maybe next week, we’ll answer your question. New episodes post every Tuesday afternoon. Until next time, keep praying and pass the guacamole!