Posted by: glorifyhim1 | May 7, 2012

The Pharisee in All of Us

This week the vote for the widely-debated Amendment No. 1 will finally take place.

If approved, the proposed measure would amend Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution by adding a new section as follows:

Section 6. Marriage.

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

Since same-sex marriages are illegal in the State of North Carolina, this amendment, if passed, would also add that ban to the state constitution. The amount of controversy surrounding this amendment clearly indicates that this is not a simple issue. Extensive, divisive debate over the amendment and its potential legal implications have headlined the news for weeks. How can we begin to plow through all the arguments, some of which can be quite offensive toward those with a differing viewpoint, and make the right decision? How can we possibly understand all the legal implications of either a vote for or a vote against the proposed amendment? How do we know what to do?

As I struggled over how to vote on this issue, I tried to research what the implications were for either a vote for or against the amendment. What would it mean for the state of North Carolina this time next year, or even 10 years from now, if the amendment were approved or defeated? The more I plowed through the various arguments, pro and con, however, the more discouraged I became. It seemed almost impossible to get to the truth of the issue because of so many arguments driven by political or personal agendas, not to mention the hate and bitterness often levied against the opposition to either side.

Then I remembered the words in James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Oh, how I want godly wisdom! I don’t want my vote on Tuesday to just satisfy me, but to glorify my Father. It’s not what I think, but what He thinks. It suddenly occurred to me how easily I can get side-tracked and try to figure things out with my own human reasoning instead of reading His Word and praying for His discernment. And as sure as I resort to my own human reasoning is also when I grow less tolerant and more critical and judgmental of others who may not agree with me – and I become a Pharisee.

The Pharisees were a Jewish party we read about in the Bible during the time of Jesus. They were intent on obeying the letter of the law, but they also added to the law as they adopted new ideas and dealt with new situations. The Pharisees were often in opposition to Jesus and Jesus cried out against them numerous times. Luke records one of these: “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Luke 10:42).  He warned His disciples about them saying: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:1b-3). Jesus saw the hypocrisy practiced by the Pharisees and pointed out that eventually everything would be exposed.

When I fail to seek God’s wisdom and instead rely on my own understanding, I give way to the “Pharisee” in me. And as uncomfortable as it may be to admit, there is probably a little bit of “Pharisee” in all of us – both inside and outside the church. We say one thing, yet do another. We subscribe to a certain belief system, but live far from its teachings. We add to or change what the Bible teaches and expect others to agree with us. We become critical and judgmental of others, especially if they do not conform to what we expect. In short, we forget about grace.

When I seek God’s wisdom, my perspective is changed. Instead of looking around me at what others are doing, I look to God and then at myself. Am I doing what He wants me to do? My concern is not what others want me to do, nor on what others do, but that I am being obedient to what God wants me to do. When I approach decisions in this way, I can be at peace not only with my decisions, but also with others who may not agree with me. We can be more ready to work together and really listen to one another to try to make things better. And it all begins with seeking wisdom from God.

Although I have decided how I plan to vote on Amendment No. 1, I am purposefully not sharing my decision in this blog. I know there are believers who are both for and against this amendment. Instead I ask that each of you pray about your decision and let God guide you to the vote He would have you cast.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

(James 3:17)

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