Jesus forgave the sinner. He didn’t accommodate the sin. We read about this in John, Chapter 8 — often referred to as the “Woman caught in the act of adultery.” (John 8:2-11)
Any of us who have read or heard this story about the adulterous woman should be asking why the Pharisees were not so hot on the idea of dealing with the sin of the adulterous man. And we should clearly see that Jesus is a God of mercy and forgiveness. Does He then excuse adultery?
Hardly. He says to the woman, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (Vs 11, NIV)
Be assured this woman did not lead a sinless life from that point forward. Once we have our eyes opened to God’s heart of forgiveness and confess our unrighteousness before Him, we will sin again. We are hard wired with sinful hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can cleanse and renew a right spirit with us. (Note Psalm 51)
We also see the powerful demonstration of Jesus rejecting the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. We should rejoice that they recognized their own guilt in judging this woman. Thus, when confronted with the challenge by Jesus to “throw the first stone,” not a single one would. Did this exchange change their hearts forever? Very doubtful. They only grew in their hatred for the Son of Man—eventually crucifying Him.
Lent is upon us beginning Wednesday, February 14th. Ash Wednesday. Regardless of your own spiritual tradition, it’s important to note that the season of Lent is viewed as a time of repentance, self-examination, and spiritual renewal. This all leads up to the joyous celebration of Easter.
Those who are serious about the practices of Lent, and its accompanying realization of spiritual need, keeps us from Pharisaical thinking. There is no room at the cross for hearts who think they are better or more righteous than others. For, as Paul wrote to the Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, NIV)
In his desire to avoid being criticized as a modern day Pharisee, well known pastor and teacher Alistair Begg found himself in spiritual hot water by telling a grandmother that it is okay to attend the wedding of an LGBT relative. While not calling it blanket advice, Pastor Begg claimed his advice was aimed at helping this person find a balance between judgmental reviling and affirming her grandchild. In his words,
“In that conversation with that grandmother, I was concerned about the well being of their relationship more than anything else—hence, my counsel.”
So he encouraged her to be…accommodating.
In a sermon defending his choice of counsel, Pastor Begg said that one of his goals is to guard against Phariseeism in his own life. He added,
“Phariseeism is alive and well in all of our hearts. We have to guard against it. The motivation for purity and holiness of life and circumspection and so on is absolutely unquestionable. The real challenge comes when we are confronted by issues that don’t just fit our clean little categories. What distinguishes Jesus from the Pharisees—quotes [John] Stott—was in a word, Grace, the divine initiative, which forseeks [sic] and then saves the lost sinner.”
Yes, grace is paramount!
Yielding to a desire to avoid being perceived as a Pharisee while failing to stand up for righteousness, however, is really a path to unholy accommodation. We must not forget that God opens the hardened heart in His own way and in His own timing.
He does not need our accommodation of a marriage united by sin to win the hearts of the lost.
The trouble with leaning into accommodation is that we always tend to lean too far. All liberal/progressive thinking is driven by this.
While it is true that our ministry to the abortion culture involves the priestly work of helping those with unwanted pregnancies, there is also the ministry of proclaiming truth in a broken culture. The liberal mind wants us to accommodate abortion when the mother’s life may be at risk. Or the baby is not likely to survive.
But this is just the starting point.
Perhaps in Alistair’s mind he has been relieved of people seeing him as a Pharisee. We might ask whether his spiritual teaching under the banner of truth will weaken if such counsel lends itself to unholy accommodation.
I respect Alistair Begg greatly. But I view his Pharisee side-step as a convenient dodge.