30 January 2018

Pharisees and Publicans

The liturgical calendar recognizes this past weekend as that of the Pharisee and the Publican. This comes from a story Christ told us that is recorded in the book of Luke, chapter 18. In short, two men enter the temple -- one a pious pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee boasts, saying, "Thank God I'm not like them." The Publican says, "God, have mercy on me." (Coincidentally, this is where we get the Jesus Prayer) Christ ends this tale with a call to humility, saying the tax-collector went home justified.


I noticed this on the calendar a few weeks ago and it's been on my mind since. It seems especially pertinent in my theological pursuits, as all Christians (Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, probably even Oriental Orthodox and other, smaller communions) suffer from what Seraphim of Patina called the "correctness disease." We want to get this Christian thing right, not because it benefits our souls and the ones around us, but because we don't want to be like them. Anyone suffering from "convertitis" is immediately tempted by this.

"I've got this Reform theology sorted out," says one, "so let me tell you why you're wrong and probably going to hell."

"I'm a catechumen now," says the other, "so let me tell you why your Protestant belief system is heresy."

Suddenly the understanding God has granted us becomes a step that puts us over our neighbors. Suddenly we're not like them.

I hope, no matter where I land theologically, that I can be like the publican, recognizing my need for God no matter what. Pray for me!

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