Yet Another Year of Choices
By Barbara Dahlgren
It is quite amazing what is done “in the name of Christ.” Some professing Christians take scriptures out of context to justify death threats, bigotry, bullying, and war. Some Christians want everyone to see things their way – not necessarily the Christian way – but their interpretation of Christianity.
Years ago I read about a pediatrician who refused to treat a young child’s ear infection because her mom had tattoos. He felt that tattoos and piercings went against his Christian faith. He was perfectly within his rights because he was in private practice. The sad part is that he did it “in the name of Christ.”
Christ’s standards seem to differ from the good doctor’s. In fact, Christ raised a few eyebrows when he spent time with tax collectors, lepers, the downtrodden, prostitutes, the poor, the weak, and lowlife sinners (Luke 5:31-32). He went out of His way to heal and give hope to such people. I can’t picture Him turning away any hurting child. Instead He said, “Let the little children come to me (Mark 10:14)” – not “Let only the little children with parents who meet my high Christian standards come to me. The rest can take a hike.”
This doctor reminded me of a biblical group who got very hung up on the minute details of keeping God’s laws. They added their own, private interpretations of what the law meant. Then they imposed their standards, not God’s, on everyone around them. They were called Pharisees.
Christ had much to say about the Pharisees and none of it was good. He told people to beware of the teachings of the Pharisees (Matthew 6:11-12). They bound heavy burdens on people, and only did good deeds when others could see them so they could get the glory instead of God (Matthew 23:2-9). He called them vipers and hypocrites (Matthew 3:7; 23:13, 23-24). They were self-righteous and prideful (Matthew 9:11; Luke 7:39; 18:11-12), which was further emphasized in the parable of the publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14).
Jesus showed disdain for Pharisaical laws when He and the disciples went through the fields on the Sabbath, picked corn, and ate it (Mark 2:23-28). He openly rebuked the Pharisees (Matthew 12:39; 16:1-4) because adherence to traditions and how they were enforced had become more important to them than what God’s teachings actually meant (Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:5-8).
Unfortunately, by New Testament times, these Pharisees were widely recognized as the religious leaders. Perhaps they meant well to begin with, but they became such extremists that they couldn’t even recognize the Messiah when He was in their very presence.
Consider this… If we aren’t careful, we can get bogged down the same way. We can get caught up in the letter of the law instead of the spirit of what Christ came and died for. If you read the teachings of Christ, you know He looked on the heart, not the outward appearance. He loved people. He empathized with them. He felt their pain.
Those who want to do something “in the name of Christ” might lean more toward scriptures focusing on love, not being judgmental, going the extra mile, forgiveness, mercy, or grace. After all, aren’t these the things we want others to think of when they hear Christ’s name??
One final thought…
Ask yourself, “What would Jesus really do?” Then do it.