A few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with a man who feels like “religious” people have let him down on multiple levels and occasions. I listened to his story and honestly, it dredged up a lot of bad memories from my past. I can empathize with this brother… more than he likely knows.
Here is the text of the verse in question (see the title). I’ll offer a bit of personal commentary afterward:
Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”the words of Jesus, the Christ
So, let’s get the foundation set… Jesus was talking to the common people, so to speak. They were like people in your church or neighborhood or city who were not in the circle of pious, holier than thou, religious leaders. The leaders – Pharisees – were jealous of Jesus and tried to trick him, asking him for a sign from heaven. They were more about maintaining their position and power than they were about having a pure relationship with God, much less His One and Only Son.
Ok, back to the conversation that I had with this man who was so jaded by his experiences with religious people. As I spoke with this fellow, I could sense the genuine hurt in his voice and how it spoiled his attitude about certain churches and a specific pastor who had taken advantage of him and used his influence unjustly. I too remembered past run-ins with religious people, pastors, who had let me down in times past. These experiences can be like heavy chains that we just cannot seem to break free from. We try and try to rid ourselves of the past pain, but the devil looks for opportune moments to remind us about “those horrible church people” who hurt us.
This pain can be like the leaven of the Pharisees. Once we allow a little of the pain to take root, it continues to grow until it affects the whole of who we are. Maybe Jesus words in this verse alluded to that? Maybe he was simply warning his disciples and the “common people” to strive for a pure relationship with God. Most likely, it was even simpler than that… he was probably just telling them – straight up – to not act like those power hungry, self-serving Pharisees.
I hope that if this fellow (the one I had the discussion with) ever reads this, he will know that he is not alone in his pain. Unfortunately, many of us have experienced bad experiences with those pious, self-serving, Pharisees. We need to encourage each other to put those hurts behind us and do the best we can to forgive as Jesus forgave. OUCH! That is not an easy thing to do, no sir… it ain’t! However, scripture has many references to this conundrum. Colossians 3:13 is one such verse. Matthew 6:12 is another.
Well, God bless you and if you are also in this situation, lean in to the Spirit and away from the flesh. Give grace and grace will be given back to you. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!