A Prayer for Pharisees of Grace and Gospel Scribes
And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:5-8
Dear Lord Jesus, these are certainly strong words you directed towards the religious legalists of your day. It would be painful, indeed, to hear you say to us, “You talk about me a whole lot, using plenty of spiritual language and Bible quotes. You’re very quick to recognize and correct false teaching. You’re even zealous to apply what you know to others. But your heart is very far from me”?
It would be one thing if such a rebuke came to us because we were acting like Mosaic Pharisees and scribes—distorting and misapplying Old Testament law; putting people under the yoke of performance-based spirituality; replacing your commandments with our traditions. But I now realize we, who love the theology of grace, can be just as hypercritical, under-loving, spiritually cool-hearted as the legalists “across the aisle.”
Forgive us when we call ourselves “recovering Pharisees” or “recovering legalists” when in actuality, we’re not really recovering from anything.
Forgive us when our talk about “getting the gospel,” is much more talk than walk.
Forgive us, Jesus, when we love exposing false gospels more than we love spending time with you in prayer and fellowship.
Forgive us when we are quick to tell people what obedience is not but fail to demonstrate what the obedience of faith and love actually is.
Forgive us for being just as arrogant about grace theology as we were obnoxious about legalistic theology.
Forgive us when we don’t use our freedom to serve one another in love, but rather use it to put our consciences to sleep.
Forgive us when our love for the gospel does not translate into a love for holiness, world evangelism, and caring for widows and orphans.
Forgive us for having a PhD in the indicatives of the gospel yet failing so miserably when it comes to the imperatives of the gospel.
Forgive us when we love “the gospel” more than we actually love you, Jesus, as impossible as that may seem.
Change us by your grace and for your glory. So very Amen we pray, in your name, with convicted and humbled hearts.