Jesus was a Pharisee: Stop defending your Tribe

Who was Jesus’ tribe?

Everyone who encountered him was completely dumbfounded by him. No one knew exactly what to think of this man called Jesus of Nazareth.

Sinners were baffled, yet intrigued by him. He was someone important who actually noticed them and happily spent time with them, but at the same time lived an uncompromising righteous life in front of them. He didn’t come across as threatening or judgmental, but he did call people to repentance.

His disciples were a mixed bag, so what they thought of him depends on who you asked. Some of them expected him to be a great military leader, others thought he would give them status and respect in society, and others just couldn’t decide if he was a prophet or the Son of God. Regardless, Jesus both far exceeded, and fell drastically short of, his disciples’ expectations.

Finally, those poor Pharisees were constantly confused and never quite sure what to do with Jesus. On the one hand, he rebuked them all the time, did miracles on the Sabbath when he wasn’t supposed to, and hung out with sinners (which was an obvious no, no). On the other hand, he was practically one of them. He taught the same truth they taught (and lived it better than they did), he clearly honored and obeyed God, and he loved the Scriptures. In many ways, Jesus’ life and teaching looked a lot like one of the Pharisees. If there was ever a tribe he fit into, you could argue that this was it.

You may think of the Pharisees as bad people, and in many ways they were. But Jesus didn’t condemn them for what they believed and taught. He actually affirmed their teachings, but he constantly confronted them for their inconsistency and hypocrisy: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice,” (Matt. 23:2-3).

What confused people about Jesus was that he confronted the people with whom he had the most in common more than anyone else. He exposed the Pharisees’ inconsistent actions far more often than he challenged the sinners’ wrong beliefs. In other words, Jesus did not defend his tribe.

Do you want to make a statement, or a difference?

Many of us are a lot more like the Pharisees than we are like Jesus. We’re more concerned with trying to convince outsiders that our tribe is right than we are with trying to get our own tribe to live out the truth they claim to believe.

This applies to everything we have strong feelings about, not just the gospel (not even primarily the gospel). Just watch Fox News and CNN and you’ll see it almost immediately. People will quickly and eagerly expose their opponents’ flaws, but the moment someone from their tribe slips up, they either sweep it under the rug or downplay its impact. We saw this repeatedly during the election season. Trump was accused of sexual misconduct and Clinton was accused of an email scandal. Trump supporters saw Clinton’s actions as treason, but Trump’s as “locker room humor”. Clinton supporters didn’t want a womanizer leading the country, but didn’t mind a liar so much.

Echoing your tribe’s opinions is unproductive, especially when you do it on social media. You won’t change anyone’s mind. You’ll create a rally instead of a dialogue. All the people who already agree with you will love it and cheer you on, and all the people who disagree will hate it and want to fight. You’ve changed no one, challenged no one, and helped no one. In the end all you get is validation from your tribe, and eye rolls from your dissenters.

Your time will be far better spent by calling out the inconsistency and hypocrisy of your own tribe than thinking you have the silver bullet of truth that will force your opponents to bow to your superior insight. Jesus said in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” This doesn’t just apply to individuals, but to groups as well.

The biggest threat to our beliefs is not the opposing dogma of our enemies, but the laziness and selfishness of our friends. If what you believe really matters to you, then addressing the hypocrisy of your own tribe will be more important than addressing the heresy of another.

We will change very few minds of our rivals by sharing our biased facts and hard truths, but we may change the hearts and actions of our nominal comrades by reminding them of the ‘why’ behind what they claim to believe.

If you’re just trying to make a statement, then, by all means, keep doing the same charade. Broadcast your tribe’s opinions so that all the people who agree with you say “Amen,” and all the people who don’t say, “Hold up!” and nothing changes. But if you want to really make a difference, you will have a far bigger impact by confronting your own tribe for their actions and motives, than by confronting your opponents for their ideas and beliefs. And as a byproduct, more often than not, you’ll find that those who disagree with you are far more likely to respect you and be open to hear what you have to say when you are honest with the shortcomings of your own tribe.

You may also like:

The cuss word you should only use in worship.

Why We Don’t Need Church Anymore.

You Will Never Win Your Fight Against Porn.


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