“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” – Luke 7:33-34
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were hyper-religious hypocrites. I don’t mean “hyper-religious” as in they loved God too much—if being obsessed with the awesomeness of God is hyper-religion, sign me up! But these guys weren’t about the awesomeness of God; they were about the awesomeness they derived from their perverted form of religion. These pompous men marched around town teaching all sorts of add-ons to the faith of the Old Testament while ignoring the essentials of the faith of the Old Testament. The Pharisees neglected the central matters of the Law like love, justice, and mercy and then imposed all sorts of non-essential, extra-biblical traditions.
So naturally, when John the Baptist comes on the scene and rebukes the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, they accuse him of having a demon. And when Jesus shows up epitomizing love, justice, and mercy but ignoring their extra-biblical traditions, they call him a drunkard and a glutton. Moral of the story: when you don’t really know the God of whom the Bible speaks, you will fail to recognize those who are walking with God . . . and call them all sorts of stupid, crazy things.
As you try to follow Jesus as the Bible prescribes, have you ever been perceived as “too spiritual” by some professing Christians and “not spiritual enough” by others? Have you ever been ridiculed by one group of people for being a holy roller and shunned by another group for not being “sold out” enough? I’m sure you have because Christians today encounter the same kind of mislabeling that John the Baptist and Jesus dealt with two millennia ago. Though accessing and learning the Scriptures has never been easier, there are subcultures within contemporary Christian culture that seem so void of biblical truth and wisdom. Like the Pharisees of times past, these subcultures twist or add to the true faith and ridicule—or even condemn—those who won’t submit to their twistings and additions.
Some subcultures will judge you for taking the Bible super seriously and trying to live out its truth in every aspect of your life. They will accuse you of being Amish-like when you choose not to go out to clubs or participate in other worldly activities. They will exclude you from social gatherings because you talk about the things of Christ too much. They will roll their eyes at your devotion to prayer and reading the Word, and say you’re “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.”
And then there are subcultures that will judge you for not being devoted enough. They will shame you for not protesting with them at various celebrations of sin. They will accuse you of “compromising” when you enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner. They will say you’re apathetic about evangelism because you won’t go with them to the park and hand out gospel tracts to random people. They will murmur about your “worldliness” when you frequently spend time with your unbelieving friends.
I think if Jesus were to come down from heaven and walk into either of these groups in disguise, he would be treated just as disrespectfully as he was by the Pharisees. If you are a Christian who is simply trying to walk as Jesus walked, don’t be discouraged or swayed by the extremism of some “Christian” subcultures. People may say you’re too heavenly minded to be any earthly good, but Christ was the most heavenly-minded man to ever live, and he did the most good for this earth that anyone has ever done! People may say you talk about God too much, but Jesus loved his Father with all his heart and wasn’t ashamed to talk about him constantly. People may condemn you for enjoying a good glass of wine, but Jesus regularly glorified his Father by enjoying good gifts like food and wine, in moderation. People may say your refusal to protest in the streets indicates a lack of hatred for sin, but Jesus hated sin more than any other person ever has, and he didn’t go out into the streets to yell at sinners. People may see you spending time with unbelievers and accuse you of being lackadaisical about holiness, but Jesus spent ample time with the worst of sinners . . . without becoming like them.
Friends, don’t let your heart be troubled by the various kinds of “Pharisees” of 2016. There will always be sects and groups within Christianity that take things too far (or not far enough). As Jesus said in Matthew 15, “Let them alone. They are blind guides.” Just keep on following Jesus . . . if he was judged and misunderstood, you surely will be, too.