Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Pharisee Within

Most every seminary course I've taken has affected my outlook and heart in a significant way. Some have evoked awe over our great God. Some have kindled compassion. Others have prompted a piercing, surgical exploration within.

My current course falls into this latter category as a sweeping literary study of the gospels has peeled back the layers of the heart of a Pharisee and demanded, really, a "heart check" of my own Pharisaical tendencies.

Prior to this course, if you said "Pharisee," I would think "legalist." Certainly, that's part of the problem. But, as the professor continues to drive home, the problem with the Pharisee's heart warrants a more thoughtful and probing diagnosis. What is the basis for the legalism? What is the root of the hatred for the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ? What is at the core of the missing compassion for those outside the "club"?

It is simply this: love and prioritization of one's self.

The tough question: What are my motives?

So, I've been working on new facial creases for the past few weeks (and feeling bad that I notice that I'm doing this) as I question my motives behind just about everything. Why do I do what I do? For the glory of God? Or, for the glory of Sarah?

My instructor says our efforts on behalf of God are aimed at a "top line" where we are to be imitators of Christ, our actions obediently reflecting the desire of God. Anything that we do that is not inspired by God, but tethered, instead, to selfish gain, resides on the "bottom line." What motivates our acts of service to others? Is it all about God and His will? Or is something internal driving us? Though they may be essentially indistinguishable in their works and actions, will or should a believer and a non-believer who volunteer have different heart motivations?

Which begs the question in my own mind: Why do I write? Why do I teach? The answer, friends, better be because I love God and I love you. End of story. Not because writing makes me feel good (ouch). Or I like to hear myself talk when something halfway intelligible eventually comes out of my mouth (ouch). Or, I think it's kind of cool to have a blog (ouch). But because I love God... and I love you.

Question for today: Why do you do what you do?


Doc Op said...

Dear Sarah, I too have asked this question a lot, simply because I am often aware that what I do is for my own glory. So then, the question becomes, can I ever escape this tendency, and if so ... How? I find, that by grace, and in small packages, I am able to sometimes redirect my efforts from self, to others or to God, by considering their joy or pleasure. (God takes pleausre in watching his children enjoy and develop the gifts He's given them.)

As is, I much enjoy the guitar playing of Phil Keaggy. Now I imagine, that he --as a man of great skill, would have great room to take pride in his ability, and he might, as a student of Christ, also wish to make war with pride.

If he responded to that struggle by saying: "I will not play the guitar quite so well, or perhaps I will abandon it altogeher" -- well then, he would take away a great deal of my pleasure, and even a means by which I delight in God. (For haging made my ear, the possibity of music, and the artist Mr Keaggy.

So I pray that he recognise that he has a gift which comes with responsibity, and work to love others by sharing it.

I imagine that you too, might see others at the end of the process and gift that God has given you.. not only as a writer but as a person who takes interest in people, or as one who shares big ideas in a digestable way.

Anyway, I hate to keep throwing links at you, but here is my response to the question of why I do what I do (take picture)... penned years ago. Its way too long for sane folks.

Kirk (who is very frightened by the lack of spell check in this commment field.)

Sarah Onderdonk said...

Kirk... " grace, and in small packages..." I think that sums it up. And thank you for that link... I read your article yesterday and really enjoyed/related to it!

For me, anyway, there continues to be a bit of a gap between recognition of areas of shortcoming (let's call it what it is: sin) and God's provision of grace that says, "I love and forgive you no matter what...". While I trust and celebrate this truth... this unbelievably gracious "given" to all who follow Christ... I don't personally experience the full freedom that has been extended. I know this is not something imposed by God, but a twist or kind of "reversal" on pride that says, "Well, then, what's the point of me doing this or that..." (Just like your Keaggy story... I will have to look him up. An aside... I found a free music service bloggers can use... most performers are not well known and some of the music is a little, well, odd... but was surprised to find a David Knopfler who sounds just like Mark Knopfler... the service is sonicsomething... the widget is on my home page.)

Your photography is breathtaking. It shouts JOY. I pray that God and His magnificent handiwork is glorified as more and more people discover your very special creative talents. May I link to one of your sites?

God bless and keep creating!