I was just thinking about something today and if I don’t get it down on paper, I forget so easily, so I am writing these thoughts in this blog to help me remember. I was thinking about how the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus day called, “The Pharisees,” were continually conforming to their own set of rules and expressing expectations for others to also conform to their particular set of beliefs. To conform, according to Mr. Webster is; “to act in accord to the standards, attitudes, practices, etc. of a society or a group. He goes on to describe the meaning of conform, “To be similar in form, in nature, or character. It all sounds like a pretty good standard, right? I want to be like Jesus, don’t you? What will that look like however, as we are all so different in nature, talents, gifts of expression, unique temperaments, etc? Will it look like conformity so we all develop the same language and expression? Or will it look more like artistry, multi-colored design and movement, never static, always shifting, reflecting light and color as stated in Psalm 139, “Woven together in my mother’s womb” (“woven” as used here in the Hebrew means, like a beautiful, multi-colored tapestry) Give this some thought!
The distinction that comes up for me in this moment is the distinction between conforming and confirming. The Pharisees conformed to a set of rules they thought they could keep and attempted to get others to conform to those rules in order to be right, look good, gain advantage and so on. As I see it, the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees was, while they were all about conforming, Jesus was all about confirming. Maybe that’s why whores, thieves and divorced folks liked to hang around him, they couldn’t get confirmed and affirmed anywhere else. Consider our religious institutions and organizations for a moment, isn’t it all about conforming to the vision of the leaders of those organizations? Not that this is wrong, as that would depend on the leaders motives don’t you think? I think how it shows up in a negative way would be if one feels pressure from a religious entity that he or she does not measure up to their standard which of course is always touted as “God’s standard.” I have experienced this especially when some may think I should move in a certain direction because they are, yet God is moving me in another direction. It might look like rebellion or, “going against the grain.”
So, here is Jesus, The Son of God, The Redeemer, The Sacred Promised One who lives in perfection speaking to the students of The Old Testament, they, having memorized most of it. They read all about him but did not know him! “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much as a son of hell as you are!” Holy Moly, them’s harsh words dude! Then Jesus hits a home run when he says to the religious guys, “You tithe, but you have neglected the more important matters of the law, justice, (treating my wife and kids with understanding, isn’t that where law and justice begin, the family?),matters of mercy and faithfulness. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones.” Maybe instead of trying to get people to conform, “read more bible, pray harder, tithe more, give to our church programs, etc.,” we ought to be confirming them where they live instead of where we think they ought to live. How about praising them instead of insinuating they are not close enough to Jesus. How about empathy and understanding, where they are, not where we want them to be because of some notion about the meaning of discipleship? Trying to get people to be more spiritual is like sitting on a throne with a crown, a holier than thou attitude and assuming others are not right where God has led them or they are not where we think we are. LEAVE THEM ALONE! God is God, we are not! They are growing, leave them alone, let God grow them without your help unless He asks you to take a specific role in His work! God may be leading them into a valley while we are trying to get them to the mountain! (Memorize that thought!) What’s the scripture, “kicking against the, what?” How about we quit interfering with what He is doing in the lives of others, lives that might not look as religious or christian as we like! Sometimes He lets me go all the way down into defeat and despair which allows me to enter desperation. Desperation and pain are the two dynamics that draw me closer to Him, not a program to increase my spirituality!
For those studious, religious pedants who want a scripture verse for proof in every conversation, I offer John 3:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save………… Every time I challenge someone they need to be closer to God, they need to tithe, they need to study the bible more, they need to, they need to,they need to, I am implying that they lack! To imply that you lack is to try to get you to conform to something I think I see that you need to do. How utterly arrogant of me! If you conform because of pressure I place on you, you become a performer. If I confirm you, AS YOU ARE, like God does, I love you and hold you with respect and honor in my heart, not implying that you lack or that I could even evaluate what you need unless you share it with me and make a request. My purpose and goal is to truly love you, to confirm you, not try to conform you. Since I am not sure what I need, how in the *##& could I ever decide what it is that you need, other than love? I make it my life purpose to confirm others, I confirm them when they blow it, I confirm them even when I disagree with them, I confirm them because that is what Christ The Lord does. My only desire is to conform to His confirmation as He came to love the entire world and that means all the people in it!