"I'm Not Like THEM!"
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, â€œIf this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.â€ And Jesus answering said to him, â€œSimon, I have something to say to you.â€ Luke 7:36-40a, ESV
"I know of them, but I don't associate with their kind." I don't know if you've said these words, but I know I have (and do). In fact, whether you've said similar words or not, you have probably at least thought or felt this way about someone. The instinct is to retract from the person, like he's dirty or poisonous (even if he's not in the room). You don't want other people to think you're like her, because that would be like getting grease on your sport car finish, it would mess up your shine. If you're a Christian, you would die if others thought he was also a Christian, and you'd have to let them know that you're a different kind of Christian. You're a born-again Christian, a real Christian, and this other fellow can't possibly be (just look at how he dresses!).
It's really too bad that this attitude emanates directly from the core of Pharisaism, because I quite like feeling this way!
"Pharisaism, you say?" Yes, that should be obvious from the text above. The Pharisee is disgusted by the presence of the "woman of the city, who was a sinner," and even though it's impolite to mention it, he thinks about "what sort of woman this is", and Jesus confronts him about it. Simon has a definite Holier-Than-Thou attitude about the woman.
Even the heroes of our Anti-Holier-Than-Thou society fall prey to this one. How many movies have you seen where the villain says to the hero, "You and I aren't much different," and the hero's response is an indignant, "I'm nothing like you!"? One of the best movies I ever saw had the hero saying, "That may be true...."
What is it about us, that we have to let others know "I'm not like them"? Why does it feel good to think that about ourselves? In my estimation it stems from a combination of pride and the fear of man. It's simply part of our nature that we want to feel good about ourselves because of who we are and what we've done (even if it's entirely unrealistic that we've ever done anything good in God's eyes!). And we dread our pride being stripped from us by other people exposing our secret faults (even if they're not so secret). We want others to think about us what we think about ourselves, to keep up the illusion that we're okay without help from The Outside.
That's "the core of Pharisaism." Hypocrisy. Illusion. Secrets and lies, even to the point of self-delusion. If I can truly be "not like them," then I must be good enough. I don't have to bow my knee to anyone. I don't need the help of some Savior for some forgiveness thing. I can make it on my own. Don't bother me with the truth that I am just like every other person who ever lived, a sinner. Hang out with them? Be associated with them? I don't think so.
I think you know where I'm going with this. The truth is that you and I are sinners, just like the woman of the city. We have a brotherhood and sisterhood in our sin with every person on the planet: past, present and future. Adolph Hitler? I'm just like him. Bill Clinton? Yep. George Bush? You bet. Mark Foley? Uh huh. Saddam Hussein? Osama Bin Laden? Kim Jong Il? Mohammed? Joseph Smith? That lady who got abortions legalized? What do you think? You can't think of someone bad enough that you can honestly say, "I'm not like him." Sure, you may not have had all the opportunities and power to do what they did, but if God didn't restrain the wickedness in your heart by his Holy Spirit, you would have unleashed worse evils in the world than they (because, believe it or not, God was restraining the wickedness in their hearts, too).
The point is that you need a Savior no more or less than anyone else who ever lived. The good news is that Jesus came to forgive people just like you and meâ€”there's no other kind of person he came to save! He pronounced pardon for the woman of the city. He told her to go in peace, because her faith had saved her (Lk. 7:48, 50). He didn't pronounce pardon for the Pharisee. Why? Because he was a worse sinner? No. Because he didn't think he was a sinner. He didn't repent. He didn't ask for forgiveness. He didn't believe that Jesus was there for him in the same way he was there for the woman (who was probably a prostitute).
So, my fellow prostitutes, genocidal maniacs, adulterers, thieves, liars, founders of false religions, corrupt politicians, and pharisees: isn't it good that Jesus lived, died, and rose again for people like us and them alike?