Today, it is very easy – and very popular – to do what seems right when people are watching.
And the Lord knows, people are always watching!
In the days of the Lord’s ministry on earth, it was the sect of the Pharisees who were always watching, to see if you washed your hands before you ate, or if you spoke to anyone who was unclean.
All this watching was in order to detect external virtues – false virtues, on the outside only, not true virtues of the heart.
True virtues of the heart are seen when no one is watching.
True virtues of the heart are seen by God, not just when the Pharisees are watching.
In our times, we also have Pharisees – a great, mighty, powerful group of Pharisees.
Our Pharisees are the media – often funded by the government – and the social media.
Like the Pharisees of old, these media and social media Pharisees prowl around, looking for someone to devour, looking for fake, external virtues..
They use name-calling to divide people into categories of clean and unclean, acceptable, and unacceptable.
They divide friends and families – and even whole countries.
Because of these Pharisees, much of the world lives in fear: fear of being judged and condemned for falling short of their external, false virtues, which secular, ungodly people mistake for true and lasting virtues.
Brothers and sisters: there is a lesson we must learn from these modern Pharisees of the media and social media.
We must not fall into the easy trap of prowling around like a lion – like the devil – seeking someone to judge and devour.
We must not fall into the habit – and how easy it is, dear brethren! – where we also are constantly looking for other people who have transgressed some law, some rule, some measure of goodness, so we can hold them accountable.
The media and social media – those satanic vehicles which attempt to mimic God, to be everywhere present and filling all things – cannot get under our skin so much that we simply try to mirror them in protest and revenge.
A Christian must be different.
A Christian must have an entirely different perspective.
A Christian must be looking for sins and transgressions in one place, and in one place alone:
in his or her own heart.
Why is this?
What have the last years taught us? Have they taught us anything?
Have they not taught us how incapable we are in changing the flow of events in the world?
Have they not taught us how little impact we can have on fixing and manipulating the decisions made by other people – even critical decisions? Life-altering decisions?
Decisions which would break up the family, and divide friendships forever?
If we cannot have any influence over other people in these things, what makes us think we can correct the wrongs of other people?
What makes us think we can steer their sins and transgressions in another direction?
That’s just what the modern Pharisees in the media and on social media try to do: to manipulate conformity through social pressure and embarrassment!
But this doesn’t lead to a lasting change in the heart. It is all superficial!
That’s the reason this kind of technique is used by superficial people.
But we Christians must strive not to be superficial.
We must enter into the depths of the heart, where we can find Christ, and Christ can change us.
This is the opposite of the Pharisees: this is the humble path of the Christian life.
When we hear some public figure speaking in the media, shaming groups of people – recognize what they are doing!
When we hear the media or single individuals on social media destroying the reputation of others for some alleged transgression – which as Christians, we must remember, can always be forgiven! – recognize what they are doing!
And when you recognize this, remember: this is the Pharisee which lurks within each of us.
This is the Pharisee I can so easily become.
This is the Pharisee which, without repentance, I will become.
May God have mercy on me, a sinner.