Harry was a lovely young man. He’d given his heart to the Lord when he was just a child and despite the various temptations of youth had come through the teenage years without having succumbed to the lure of alcohol, drugs or sex. He was proud of his accomplishment, and didn’t try to hide his religious fervour. ‘When I marry,’ he’d told his scoffing peers, ‘I will marry a virgin.’
He went from high school to university and joined the Christian’s on campus group. He stayed well away from all the left-winged activist groups, and took a strong stand for moral issues.
Then he met Caroline. Carrie was pretty much like Harry. She’d had a squeaky clean childhood, and sailed through the tumultuous teenage years without being effected too much. They fell in love and Harry asked Carrie to marry him. It was a beautiful wedding. They had their parent’s blessing, they shared their first communion together as man and wife. Carrie was proud of the fact that her white dress really did indicate that she was pure. They were the perfect Christian couple.
Without waiting too long, Harry and Carrie got involved with the local church youth ministry. They worked hard, and felt they were good role models to the younger people at church. They shared all sorts of strong tips on how to stay pure and live righteously. They rose in church leadership, and were widely accepted as a good, moral couple who reflected all the ways of God.
Then Jesus came to town.
Harry was quite upset to find out that Jesus didn’t have their church on his ministry schedule. In fact he didn’t have any of the churches on his ministry schedule. When they looked up to see how they could hear him speak they saw he was only to be found in the most worldly places. A pub, a nightclub, at one of those shocking street marches, he was on campus at a couple of places, but he was with those awful immoral crowd.
‘He’s trying to give us a message, I suppose,’ Carrie speculated. ‘I guess he’s trying to tell us to reach out to those in the world.’
‘Yes, I suppose you’re right,’ Harry agreed.
‘Well, I guess it couldn’t hurt.’
‘No I suppose not.’
So Harry and Carrie got some of their clean-living friends together and went down to the notorious red-light district where they heard Jesus was speaking.
‘It’s a shame how these people live,’ Carrie said sadly. ‘I’m glad I’ve never lived a life like that.’
‘I suppose we could help out with those soup kitchen people,’ Harry said. ‘They do a good job for these sorts of people.’
‘Yes, I think we could manage it a couple of times a month.’
‘And then we could bring a film crew down here so that we can record all the good work to encourage others.’
But when they went to offer their help at the soup kitchen, the leader of the group, frowned at them. ‘I’m not really sure you would be very much help’, he said.
‘Well, I never,’ Carrie was offended.
‘What could you expect from a man who is covered in tattoos? I’m not sure how he came to be in charge of a Christian ministry anyway. He’s divorced and has a criminal record.’
‘Yes, I think we would do better to pray for these poor folks. I’m not really sure they want to change.’
Poor old Harry and Carrie. They had spent their whole lives doing what they believed to be right. They’d lived righteously. But what they hadn’t noticed was how sin creeps into all hearts, including theirs. The more they did right, the more proud they felt about their self-control and their accomplishment of a pure record. The more they displayed that, the further away they were from the heart of the gospel.
Jesus didn’t come to show the sinners how bad they were. He came to show them how much he loved them, and how he had made a way of salvation for them. The problem was, Harry and Carrie missed the fact that they too were sinners. The more they considered how much good they were doing, the further away from the truth of salvation they were drifting.
Perhaps you think I’m a bit tough on Harry and Carrie Pharee. I guess you picked I was talking about the Pharisees, that group of religious people who Jesus got most annoyed with. The thing is, I don’t think the Pharisees are dead and gone. I think the curse of Harry Pharee lives on. How do I know this? Perhaps I relate to Harry and Carrie more than you know. In fact that’s why I call it a curse, because just when I think I’ve got it all sorted: when I recognise that I’m a sinner saved by grace the same as every other human on earth, I pat myself on the back and think, ‘aren’t I clever to have seen this?’
Doh! And back to square one I go.
I hope you chuckle at this and realise, like me, that we are all, every last one of us, on a journey of grace, where we need to be mindful of the magnificent love and sacrifice of Christ poured out for us. And that if we are going to show the love of Christ we have to be less pleased with our own achievements and more pleased with His.
Author of ‘The Heart of Green Valley’ Series, ‘Mellington Hall’ and other novels.