“How immature, that’s definitely not Christ-like.”

The words run through my head as I watch people lose all sense of Spirit as they get mad, yell, and be irresponsible.

“How judgmental, that’s definitely not Christ-like”, the silent whisper in my heart answers back so quickly that I bow my head in repentance and shame.

Considering that I was far worse before, it’s ridiculous to think how self-righteous I still can be. In the path of wanting to be like Christ, how often have I turned into a Pharisee?

Not that Pharisees are necessarily bad people. Oh sure, we’ve gotten used to playing them out as the villains in the Jesus story, but to some degree, I believe they meant well. They studied the books and the law, and they did their best to enforce what they knew. In fact, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who wanted to learn from Jesus and who provided the tomb for His burial respectively, were both Pharisees. It’s just that ultimately, the average Pharisee was marked by self-righteousness and self-importance, the exact opposite of Christ’s humility.

Needless to say, I get quite frightened and worried when the little thoughts and attitudes yet again creep up on me. And I want to share with everyone the tell-tale signs, what I check in myself to know if I’m acting less like Christ and more like a Pharisee:

1. Getting smug about being “more mature”

When I start to compare a person to myself, thinking “he would be better if he just read his bible, spent more time with God, and obeyed like I do”, I know I’m in trouble. This is self-righteousness and judgment wrapped up in one sentence. This is me forgetting that it took me a while to grow too. This is me actually being immature.

The truth is, the more I learn about God, the more I realize that I hardly know anything. Christianity isn’t a competition.

2. Being exclusive about friendship

I have had serious issues with this in the past, and it is still a conscious effort for me to be more welcoming. I can engage and make small talk with anyone, but I am very, very picky about who to befriend. Yes, wisdom should be involved in choosing who to let in, but a lot of times, I don’t even give people a chance because of preference. It’s convicting to think that Jesus welcomed all sorts of corrupt and sinful to dine with Him while I don’t want to have lunch with certain personalities.

3. Refusing vulnerability and accountability

When image and reputation becomes more important to you than community and honesty, you know something’s wrong. The Pharisees hampered their growth simply because they refused to let other people speak into their lives. They refused to acknowledge mistakes and they had a façade on all the time, such contrast to Christ who allowed Himself to be broken and shamed, to be embarrassed in front of many people and be a whole new kind of vulnerable.

4. Defensiveness when corrected

How instinctive it is to start justifying when confronted, to be in denial when rebuked, kind of like how the Pharisees refused to accept what Christ was saying about them.

5. Being pushy about rules and convictions

One word: Legalism.

Now they all actually boil down to pride branching to self-righteousness, but I do think it helps to be aware of which specific ways it tends to rear its head. A heart-check is always of utmost importance. Also, if you just read the list spitefully thinking, “I know someone else like this”, you probably need to look at yourself too. 😉

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