I had an encounter last week with a man who expressed disapproval over feeding fish at a pond some leftover french fries. After we left, he contacted security at the park, and had my family “shadowed” by a security guard.
We were treated as borderline criminals for feeding animals “supplemental” food. Never mind the fact that they eat garbage off the bottom of the pond.
That bothered me. I should have asked the man if he would like a french fry.
It is not the first time I have encountered a person judging my actions and letting me know of their disapproval vocally.
They might believe they are performing a good work. In point of fact, they are alienating the very people who they want to affect a change in.
God wants to change people, too. And, the beauty of the protestant reformation can really be seen in the approach to sinners like me. As we read through the Gospel accounts, Christ spoke to those in “gross” sin with mercy. People who had been judged by the religious leaders of the day were given the good news that Jesus had come to rescue them. He also displayed mercy toward those who were blind, crippled, and diseased.
On the other hand, those who believed they were righteous through their adherence to the Law were told, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” (see Matthew 23)
In the same section of scripture, Christ calls them “sons of hell”, “blind guides”, and “hypocrites”. God hates the self-righteous. In fact, Jesus said, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Why such harsh language? Why does Jesus call out the religious leaders, but “hangs out with” prostitutes and tax collectors? Even in our day, His behavior might seem shameful to many. But His concern was to overturn the hypocritical judgments of the self-righteous to save them. Think of the rich young ruler. Jesus addresses him with a part of the ten commandments to show him his sinfulness.
But this is a hard thing to do with self-righteous people. The rich young ruler proclaimed, “I have kept all of these from my youth”. After the interchange with Jesus, he walked away sad.
Or, we can read of the example of Saul who was on the way to persecute Christians when He experienced the risen Christ. It took witnessing a supernatural event to convert him.
It takes a lot to show a sinner the error of his ways. It takes Law preached in all of its thunder to break up the heart of sin. And, then the job is only partially done because Christ comes for the broken, and contrite. And once that mercy is shown to a person aware of their true condition, repentance is born in them.
For we are not justified by our adherence to law, rather, Christ came to justify the ungodly (Romans 4:5); even french fry fish feeders.