“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do; for they do not practice what they preach.” (verses 2-3)
What a cautionary tale. These teachers of the law and Pharisees have got truth nailed. Yet they don’t live it. In fact, so much so that Jesus spends a whole chapter pointing out the gaps, pronouncing judgement.
Jesus’ half-brother, James, will later tell us: “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).
I’m a teacher of the Word. You may be, too. Certainly all of us are “listeners.” But does the Word get into our minds and wills and hands and feet? Do we do it?
So many areas of life and discipleship to consider, but the one that comes to mind for me this morning, crucial to faith, is simply grace.Amazing grace. This word, central to the teaching of the Gospel, provides us a foundation on which to stand, access having been provided by our Lord himself (Rom 5:2). But it is also a word of instruction, meant to shape our lives. Grace, spilling forth into practical love and compassion and acceptance and forgiveness, is to be the attitude and practice of our interaction with others.
But is it? How often do I impose standards on those around me, mostly unarticulated, expecting them to rise to the bar of my requirements in order to gain approval. Oh, I may keep it all unspoken, un-imposed, yet how often are my own attitudes shaped by these silent regulations.
How often do we allow the community we have created around us to be characterized by un-grace, rather than the full-on variety of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Philip Yancey tells a truly troubling story of a prostitute selling her own child into the sex trade in order to feed a drug habit. When a social worker, seeking to help, asked her why she didn’t go to the church for help, stunned and bemused she exclaimed, “The church? Why would I go there? They’d have only made me feel worse about myself.”
A stinging indictment. Channels of grace is what we’re meant to be, committed practitioners of what we believe. Grace, grace, God’s grace. Amazing grace.
So, what will it mean for me today to live what I know?
O Lord, catch me when my attitude smacks of judgement. Give me eyes to see opportunities for extending love, unmerited, even when I feel resources are spent. Let me be quick to bestow forgiveness, even when not asked. And may you strengthen me with divine help to practice what I preach, that both word and deed echo deeply your amazing grace.
Take a step: What person will most challenge the reality of grace in your own life today? Plan ahead: what step could you take to truly express the grace of Jesus to them?