(Jesus and the Pharisees John 3: 1-21)
Does it come as a shock to you that Jesus loved the Pharisees? He did. While he openly and publicly rebuked their religious practices, he desired that they come into a true relationship with God.
In John chapter three Jesus receives a night time visitor, the Pharisee Nicodemus. His dialogue with Nicodemus is different from any discussion he has had with anyone else. He talks with Nicodemus on a fairly abstract, theological level about the workings of the Holy Spirit. And then he challenges Nicodemus to be born anew, or born again, by the Spirit.
This is the only place in the New Testament where the phrase “born again” is used. It was an illustration specifically shared with Nicodemus, so that he could understand and come into the kingdom. Why is it, then, that we tend to use that phrase with everyone?
One of the most striking things about the recorded ministry of Jesus is that every encounter is unique. Granted, the gospels are only a synopsis of all that Jesus said and did, but still they show us a principle. Jesus treated each person as an individual. He respected them enough to not resort to routines or methodologies to address their need.
Too often the Christian Church becomes a place of methodology, not relationship. We hear a preacher, listen to a teaching tape, read a book and seem to assume that this newest revelation is how things must be done; as in the case of my friend Shauna: the Christian counselling method used on her was not wrong, just not right for her at this time in her life.
If we are to honour people the way Jesus did, we must learn to listen, just as Jesus did with Nicodemus. Everyone’s story is different. We do them a disservice when we try to fit everyone into a predictable little box. If Jesus had done that, Nicodemus would have been just another Pharisee, judgmental and rule-oriented. We have forced them into a mould that was never intended for them. We, then, are unsafe people.
To be a safe person, we are called to be like Jesus:
- with no room in our hearts for pride or shame,
- who treats those of the opposite sex with respect, not fear,
- who sees the belief and doesn’t condemn the mistake,
- who focuses on relationships, not programs.