The name Pharisee leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Religious leaders who practice laws . . . religious wolves whose teeth tear the sheep apart.

They breathe schedules and routines and religious practices. Their heads swim in the Word, but when they come up for breath, all they breathe in is the air of their ignorant egos.

They saw Jesus in the flesh yet didn’t recognize Him.

They nailed Him to that cross yet didn’t realize those nails were emblems of the prophecies they thought they knew.

They challenged Jesus and all His teachings. Condemned Him for not following the rules, the routines, the religion. Condemned Him for claiming to be the King of the Jews when He did not follow the old Jewish laws.

But Christ came to make us anew. To take the burden and the weight of the old law upon His shoulders as He hung from that cross. To take the need for burnt offerings and sacrifices, the need for temples, the need for prophets and religious leaders . . . to take all these things and bring in a new era.

The new law.

The law that says we are buried and risen again with Christ when we believe. The law that says we don’t need to throw our burnt offerings and sacrifices on an altar to appease the God who created us and loves us. The law that says “Forget this curtain” in the temple because there is no longer any need for separation between our Holy God and our broken, sinful selves. The law that says we become the Holy Spirit’s sanctuary when we believe.

The law that says religion doesn’t have to be religion anymore . . . it can be a relationship with God. A relationship that previously needed religion to bring about all the fruits of intimacy.

But these Pharisees . . . they’re killing me.

Because I am a Pharisee.

I get caught up in these laws, and I focus on others’ flaws, when really, I am the one at fault.

I have to say, “God, I’m a Pharisee. How can You see me and still love me unconditionally? You’re the God of the old laws, the ones I follow religiously. What am I doing wrong?”

He says, “I don’t delight in sacrifices or take pleasure in burnt offerings. But I won’t despise a broken spirit.”

I get caught up in these laws and routines, knowing and feeling that they are going to be the death of me.

I breathe in air poisoned by my own ignorant pride.

But I don’t have to.

I get lost in the laws but getting lost in Jesus’s sacrifice is way better.

Getting lost in the relationship . . .

. . . means being found by God.

And so instead of throwing down another burnt offering, I raise my hands stained with my Pharisee heart–

and I feel God embrace me in a hug.

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