Talking to the Pharisees Rather than about Them?
Recall that in Luke 18:9, Luke introduces the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector like this: "He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt." It may seem minor at first, but notice that it says that Jesus told this parable TO some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. It does not say he spoke this parable ABOUT them. Jesus was looking the Pharisees in the eye and telling them a parable that implied that they were self-righteous. He was not talking about them but to them.
Though it may seem minor, it contains a lesson that is huge for the health of our church. Let's be like this. Let's not talk to others about people's faults. Let's talk to them about their faults. It is easy - and far too tasty on the tongue of our sinful souls - to talk about people. But it is hard - and often tastes bitter - to talk to them. When you are talking about them, they can't correct you or turn the tables and make you the problem. But if you talk to them about a problem, it can be very painful. So it feels safer to talk about people rather than talking to them.
But Jesus does not call us to make safe choices. He calls us to make loving choices. In the short run, love is often more painful than self-protecting conflict-avoidance. But in the long run, our consciences condemn us for this easy path and we do little good for others. So let's be more like Jesus in this case and not talk about people, but talk to them, both with words of encouragement, because of the evidences of grace we see in their lives, and with words of caution or warning or correction or even rebuke. Paul urged us to use the full range of words for the full range of needs: "Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all" (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
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