If we declare we follow Christ, do we reflect the transformed life in what is seen day to day?
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus often tells stories or parables and leaves detail for the listener to work out. He often says in the Bible – I have a story to tell, now listen. We have no idea who the story is aimed at until we listen for the subtle clues. However, in this instance he is direct. The passage is specifically ‘to some who were confident in their own righteousness’. It is as if he needs to be clearer here or else the people it is intended for may have closed their ears and considered they did not need correction. I wonder if the people listened. But today we can listen and hear the corrective voice of Jesus speaking into our lives.
The Pharisee in the passage were confident in their own righteousness. I am not sure to what ‘standard’ they were judging themselves or others, but they thought that they had made it. Their own heads appear to be judging their rightness with God. They did not leave God to be the judge.
In response, my judging heart wants to say, ‘I hate others who are hypocrites” and yet I know that my own words are condemning me. I am that very hypocrite, just as bad as the Pharisees if I look around just to spot the faults of others.
The reality is that all of us do not meet the example of Jesus; all of us have ‘fallen short’. Who are we to judge when we ourselves have not met God’s standard? Realising that we are sinners and in constant need of God’s grace is a mark of a maturing Christian. Displaying Christ not just in what we say but in what we do in the quiet, unremarkable kind of ways is also evidence of a truly changed individual transformed by God’s grace alone.
When I was young one of my teachers gave me a poem that I can remember by rote today. It made an impact on me. The poem says that if we say we live by a creed then in order to impact others we will need to practice what we preach. Considering the same idea as a Christian it encourages me to live a life that shows evidence of a transformed life in Christ: not just saying I am following Christ but making life decisions that reflect what that means. Admitting we are fallen but with God’s strength we are changed, renewed. Perhaps this poem will resonate with you today:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye is a better pupil, more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear,
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see a good put in action is what everybody needs.— Edgar A. Guest
This poem reminds us to live authentic lives where others can see Christ in us as we go about our every day. We may not all be preachers (or Pharisees) but we are observed by others particularly if we publicly declare Jesus as Lord of our lives. It is a huge responsibility. Yet we are not alone as we are given strength by a daily submission to him. The tax collector in this passage was an authentic follower living by God’s mercy alone.
Head: Think: Has there been a time this week, even today that I have already thought ill of another as I think that the other is not being the person that they say they should be? Let them be. Instead consider is there a time this week, even today that I have not been the person that I say I should be?
Heart: Do people ‘see’ a sermon daily in us? Do our words/ actions point others too Christ or away from him?
Hands: Is there a habit within us that needs to be transformed? We are not alone – take it to Jesus for transformation.
Prayer: Dear Lord help me to look away from judging others and to see with your eyes the faults that are within me. I ask for your transforming spirit to take my eye off others and on to you. May I reflect you in all I am. Help me to be true and not fake. May my love for you be truly evident and may it draw others to you and not away from you. Help me to live an honest and transparent life that reflects your love and forgiveness in my less than perfectness. AMEN
A song to listen to: By Grace Alone
Emma–Jane McNicol – Creek Road Presbyterian Church- Carina