formation friday: our inner pharisee

kathyescobar church stuff, formation friday, healing, identity, relationships, spiritual formation 15 Comments

blessed are the pure in heart

once in a while it’s fun to focus in on one topic longer than a post, and i am glad for the different responses to “healing the divides” week; if even one conversation or relationship could be different because of it, it was way worth it to me.  the other posts this week are: 8 ways those from more liberal-progressive and conservative-evangelical persuasions can better love each other, safer people make safer conversations, breaking down walls, and deeper dignified dialogue. i haven’t posted a formation friday (better known as formation saturdays) in quite a while but i thought it would be good to end this series with one.  formation fridays are about spiritual formation and reflection, ways to engage with God & our hearts in different ways that stir and move us.


i can’t tell you how many times i have pointed my finger toward people who i think embody some of the characteristics of the pharisees in the bible–people who judge, condemn, and feel like it’s their job to make sure everyone follows the law.  “they’re just like the pharisees” has rolled off my tongue far too many a time.  calling them hypocrites, pointing out their flaws, highlighting all of the ways they are somehow not consistent with Jesus’ ways is not that hard for me.

what’s much harder is to not judge them.

this week i thought of Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount. right before he highlighted focusing on the log in our own eye. he says, “do not judge, or you too will be judged. for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (matthew 7:1-2).

do not judge.

for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.

with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

i have been convicted over and over again how often i am just a reverse pharisee. what i mean by that is that i am judging them for judging others.

and as much as i’d like to justify it,  it’s exactly the same, and just as ugly.

as humans, we often have an inner pharisee, a part of us that loves to measure, critique, judge, and find ways to find-what’s-wrong-with-other-people-and-how-somehow-they’re-not-doing-what-we-think-they-are-supposed-to-be-doing.

we are good at noticing logs & lobbing stones.

it’s so easy to read the scriptures and see all of the places where Jesus is criticizing the pharisees and think “good for him, he really is letting them have it, and they deserve it!” but if i’m really honest, every time he is speaking to them, he is also speaking to me.  because in different ways, i do the same thing.  it might not be centered on the “God’s laws” but it is certainly centered on “my laws.”

i have some to believe that a big part of my inner pharisee is insecurity.

insecure people are the most judgmental kind. and it’s true, the more insecure i feel inside, the more likely i am to find a way to make myself feel better about myself somehow, some way.

our inner pharisee separates us from other people because it overtly and subtly assumes we are somehow “better” than others. we’ve got the goods and they don’t. we know what’s right, and they’re wrong.  we know what’s best, and they’re missing the point somehow.

secure, free people don’t need to feel better than others.

they can focus on love, not judgement. on mercy, not the law. on grace, not works.

i am continually convicted by my tendency to judge. to let my inner pharisee take over.

and every time i do, i create a bigger divide between me and whoever i’m judging.  judgement brings separation, not healing.  division, not restoration. hate, not love. brokenness, not wholeness.  insecurity, not security.

and it also creates a division in my heart toward myself.

it makes me think of what brennan manning said in the ragamuffin gospel:

“whenever I allow anything but tenderness and compassion to dictate my response to life–be it self-righteous anger, moralizing, defensiveness, the pressing need to change others…i am alienated from my true self. my identity as Abba’s child [a child of God] becomes ambiguous, tentative and confused.” 

a great way to heal the divides in our own hearts and in these tricky relationships and conversations  is to keep being honest about our inner pharisee. to recognize our spiritual poverty and desperate need for God’s help to become less judgmental and more tender & compassionate, less insecure & more free.

that’s my hope for us as individuals, as communities.

that’s what will help bring restoration and healing to this broken world.

so as we wrap this series and reflect on ways we can participate in healing the divides, here are a few prompts to consider:

  • God, my inner pharisee is especially judgmental toward….
  • it feels easy to judge them because….
  • but it’s harming me by….
  • i confess my judgement to you.  it’s not how i want to live. 
  • help me let go of…
  • and please help me remember…
  • thank you that you keep teaching me…

have a great weekend and see you monday for grief week, 5 days of experiential reflections to grieve church & faith shifts & other losses, too.

love and hope, kathy