John 18:28-29 (New International Version)
28 Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?"
Is it just me, or is there something bizarre about worrying that you might become ceremonially unclean by entering a Roman palace; while you are carrying out a plot that will bring a man to his death? When I read this passage recently, I felt as though God had tucked this piece of irony into the gospel of John; first, for us to see the humour in, and then to ponder.
I enjoyed it, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I've learned that it doesn't pay to laugh too long, because usually under the humour, there is a dead serious point to be found and it is usually hits uncomfortably close to home.
So I've been thinking about how I might make a big deal out of what might be a minor thing to God, while missing something much more important. I have more than a few regrets about the things I've made a big deal about in the past.
For instance, on our honeymoon in Holland, we stayed with Tante Lijda and Ome Joop. Eskaline, a friend I'd met there when I was 15, invited Paul and I out for an evening of dancing. In the intervening years I had made the faith that had sprung up in my heart from earliest childhood, "official." I had gone forward at an altar call and had begun attending a conservative evangelical church. The church frowned on quite a few things that were seen as "worldly," including going to movies, and dancing.
So, we declined Eskaline's invitation, because, we said, we didn't dance, or drink. Of course, that wasn't strictly true, since it was from a party where we danced together that Paul drove me home one night and that was the start of our romance getting off the ground--finally. But in any case, I kind of think that Jesus would have gone dancing if Eskaline had asked him. I think he would have been more about the relationship and less about the sanctimoniousness.
I can still remember Eskaline's puzzled look. She was probably wondering what had happened to that carefree 15 year old that had danced the night away at her birthday party 4 years earlier. Actually Paul didn't like dancing and had only danced with me because he was in pursuit of the object of his affection. I wish we had said,"We'd love to spend time with you. Let's do something different--Paul's not that much into dancing."
It's so easy to find ourselves on the path of the Pharisees; focusing on the outward practice of religion, while overlooking the more important thing; the state of our hearts.
I once heard Pastor Rick Warren say that to the world, the church is known for what it’s against. It should be known for what it’s for!
What are we for? So many good things.
Micah 6:8 (New International Version)
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Matthew 23:23 (The Message)
23-24"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?