“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” Matthew 23:13
Are you living around someone contentious? If so, you’re probably dreaming of deliverance – either for them or for you. You crave peace and harmony. Perhaps the argumentative person is in your small group or in your Sunday school class. God’s grace is a stumbling block to them. That person sows discord by the many arguments he presents in favor of the letter of the law and God’s judgment. As a teacher, you wonder if he is hurting other’s faith. When class is over, you feel that he ruined everything that God was trying to do.
While I do believe that dissenters like this are under the influence of religious spirits, I am encouraged that they can cause many to think and study for themselves. People who experienced the tension are able to compare the appearance of a God who was presented as angry and unreasonable with the real God who shows mercy through Christ and forgives extravagantly. The discord was really more productive than destructive. The beauty of the Gospel was on full display against the backdrop of dead religion.
In this scripture, Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees for misrepresenting what was required to enter the kingdom. They were all about keeping the law, which in and of itself, wasn’t a bad thing. It’s just that they did it void of a relationship with God. They promoted self-serving obedience. They also added thing after thing to the existing law to make the whole package burdensome. Jesus’ words were strong and all who heard it felt the dissonance.
Was the discord productive? I imagine so. Suppose you were a bystander and you wondered who Jesus was. You had labored under the law and were tired of going through the motions of Judaism. Jesus’ rebuke would have shaken you to the core — a shaking that might have resulted in new faith and a new paradigm. Jesus’ scolding reinforced what you had already felt deep in your spirit. At that moment, in Jesus, you tasted something that made your heart feel alive.
If you are frustrated by the presence of one who promotes something other than the Gospel of grace, consider that God might have that person around for the purpose of providing comparisons. Sometimes, people learn what they want by seeing, firsthand, what it is they don’t want. For those in sincere search for Jesus, discord might propel them faster to the arms of the Grace-giver.
This just shows that I never know what you will use for Your glory. Open my eyes to see You at work, even in this. Amen