The Modern Day Pharisees and Jesus: Clean the Inside of the Cup

The church in America will ultimately become much more effective when it lays down its heavy gavel of judgment and instead, chooses to be motivated by a heart of compassion and love.

Today, many within the American church have become insistent upon being accommodated. Like a confrontation between the modern day Pharisees and Jesus, there is a debate over the need to clean the outside of the cup — even as the inside of the cup remains dirty.

Some Christians joust for the highest seats of human power to enforce their agenda. They want a seat at the tables of power. What if such ever-increasing faith in the political process and in human institutions compensates for a lack of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit?

Why has the necessary devil of human government been viewed as a means to an end when, in fact, it resides on a dead end street?

Additionally, it is no secret that the modern American church is hypersensitive to public opinion. Thin-skinned American Christians are prone to view every offense — by those they perceive as outsiders — as “persecution.” The most extreme forms of this spiritual touchiness has given birth to an entirely new “Christian legal defense” industry that, for a handsome fee, will shield and insulate the faithful from the “fiery darts” of their human enemies. (One could argue the modern employment of the court system to deal with perceived “heretics” is preferable to the former Christian reaction of gouging out their eyes and burning them at the stake. I would agree, but how about going one step higher and actually “loving our enemy” as Jesus commanded?)  

In addition to an army of lawyers who serve to help you sue your enemies, many American evangelical leaders have successfully leveraged social media and AM radio seeking to convince their followers to join their make-believe “culture war.” Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, America’s cultural warriors demand a strict adherence by all citizens to their specific interpretations of scripture.

Today’s thin-skinned Christian culture “warrior” feels uncomfortable when his culture fails to reflect his beliefs and will often seek to publicly chastise any and all perceived “heretics.”

For example, when a secular corporation or institution takes a stance on a political or social issue that fails to meet the culture warrior’s “biblical” standards, trouble is brewing.

Enforcing morality upon professing Christians is difficult enough… Attempting to impose it upon the unfaithful must be immensely arduous.

Their commitment to a homogeneous religious culture leads some modern Christians to declare boycotts and attempt lawsuits against the organization that dares to offend those with religious sensibilities.

Gay-friendly companies and retail outlets, such as Home Depot (who has publicly adopted a gay-friendly employment and shopping environment) are a favorite target of the culture warrior.

So too, retail outlets that choose to greet their diverse customer base with the phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” stir the spirit of the culture warrior.

In essence, the modern American church appears incredulous that “sinners” are permitted to openly “sin” within their presence.

But what else is to be expected of sinners?

Were we not also sinners once, walking in darkness?

Did your awakening to righteousness come through coercion by moralists or instead by God’s gentle grace and goodness?

The church in America will ultimately become much more effective when it lays down its gavel and instead, chooses to operate out of a heart of compassion and love.


All of this Pharisaical bullying of the “unconverted” reminds me of the words of Jesus when He scolded the “moral majority” of his era, by declaring:

“Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 23:24-28)

Are you obsessed with keeping “the outside of the cup and dish clean” while leaving “the inside” unwashed and unclean?

Some Christians stubbornly believe that they were put on earth to judge sinners. This belief wears many different disguises, as I have eluded to in this article.

When the Lord Jesus Christ walked the earth nearly 2,000 years ago, He urged his followers to become possessed by mercy, compassion, kindness, and brotherly love. He desired his followers to lay down everything and rely upon Him, and later the Holy Spirit, to accomplish the work of God’s Kingdom.

I pray that the Body of Christ can return to its former zeal of evangelism through preaching, teaching, and writing. God desires to woo those around us into His eternal Kingdom. He is in search of loving vessels who will obey His still small voice.

Can you hear Him speaking to you?

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared’ (Luther).” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

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Jerry Robinson has been teaching the Word of God since 2002. His desire through this website is to help others know God's Word and to be sensitive to His voice. He is a grateful husband and proud father. He resides deep within the Boston Mountains in Northwest Arkansas.

'The Modern Day Pharisees and Jesus: Clean the Inside of the Cup' have 3 comments

  1. January 26, 2015 @ 6:24 pm C.D.

    Thank you for loving us (the flock of Jesus Christ) with Scriptural rebuke, Jerry. How did we (very much including myself here), the followers of Christ, get so off track in this? The enemy parades much in front of us, enticing us to bite. We forget that he often presents himself as an angel of light. The cause seems righteous. We lack discernment. We feel “righteous indignation” when the unbelieving world does not honor nor have any desire to conform to the Image of Christ. Jesus said lawlessness would abound, that the days would grow darker and darker. Why are we surprised? His words are coming to pass. Spending our time and energy fighting does not represent our Lord at all. He peaceably ministered and evangelized in the midst of a violent, unbelieving nation, thereby presenting a striking contrast of light to the darkness that prevailed. Let us be His light, full of love, mercy, and compassion with prayers that the unbelieving world will desire the peaceful Jesus within us. Rather than marching in the streets or shaking our fists, how about we focus our time and energy in fulfilling His Great Commission? With faith that He will draw them, let us submit to His example and bear great fruit for our Coming King! My prayer for us all…


  2. January 26, 2015 @ 6:29 pm William

    It’s really simple. Believers in Jesus Christ have been called to do three things:

    1) Love God with everything.
    2) Love our neighbor as ourselves.
    3) Go into the streets, preach the Gospel of Jesus, and make disciples of all men.

    That will do more to change politics, culture, and the world than any demonstrations, marches, debates, or demands.


  3. September 4, 2017 @ 11:51 am Tom M.

    I believe an explanation of the cause of the malady that Jerry Robinson describes may lie in church history. For roughly its first 3 centuries of existence, the church was not in league with or supported by any nation of the world. Then, in the 300s A.D., the church was offered and accepted the support and protection of the pagan Roman Emperor and the entire pagan Roman Empire. Now, it must be recognized that some who profess to be Christians DO NOT believe that the church that entered into union with the pagan Roman Emperor really was the true church of Christ, but was instead the “Catholic” church, a compromised, corrupted, counterfeit, Babylonian, paganized church. But most of today’s “Evangelicals” and “Protestants” DO accept that the Catholic church that entered into union with the Roman Empire was still the true church of Christ. And so, if that’s true, then for MOST of its history, the true church of Christ was supported and protected by a powerful government or governments of a worldly nation or nations (Rome; Byzantium; France; England; the Massachusetts Bay Colony; Prussia; Russia; Scotland; Spain; the Netherlands; Denmark; Austria; the Ukraine; etc.). And so present-day Evangelicals and Protestants really want to go back to the “good old days” of Church-State Union, which was the normal and universal state of affairs everywhere from about 400 A.D. until about 1776 A.D. All the Protestant churches were State churches. During the early days of the Protestant Reformation, only the Anabaptists (mainly Amish and Mennonites) rejected, on the basis of Scriptures, union with a State, and they were horribly persecuted by both the Protestants and the Catholics for this stand. I think this all comes down to whether a person professing to be a Christian is putting his hope and efforts in and into the PARADISE TO COME, or is putting his hope and efforts into making THIS WORLD a place of security, comfort, pleasures, and longevity. All professing Christians give lip service to the Paradise to Come, but for most of them their heart is not in that, but is in this World and its supposedly lovely things. 1 John 2:15 says boldly “Love not the World or the things of the World.” James 4:4 boldly says: “You adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God.” But these verses fall on deaf ears for the most part among the pastors and attendees at nearly all Evangelical or Protestant churches, or are interpreted away to drain them of most of their true meaning. Most professing Christians today are wildly IN LOVE WITH THIS WORLD, with gaining lots of money, with worldly high social status, with pleasures, comforts, and long-life in this World. Alas, this applies to ME too! I have long been looking for a denomination of churches that have elders, evangelists, and disciples that put the priority on the Paradise to Come and that are really not so much in love with this World. I have found only two such denominations: the Amish and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now, most people will immediately scream that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult and aren’t even Christians. I do agree that the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach false prophecies and false doctrines, and so no one should join them or remain in them. But I also recognize that Jehovah’s Witnesses do follow the Bible correctly in giving priority to the Paradise to Come and in really striving to not so much love this World or the things of this World. I also believe that despite all the good things the Amish do, the Amish are in serious error and in disobedience for failing to carry out evangelization outside of their group. I don’t have the answer. I view most Evangelical and Protestant churches are little more than private businesses operating just to provide income and social status to their pastors and elders. From reading the writings of Jerry Robinson, I gather that he too is massively disappointed by all or most of the existing Evangelical and Protestant churches. All I know to do is to keep praying and keep studying the Scriptures. Jerry Robinson pointed out a good path in one of his teachings when he gave a detailed commentary on Psalm 1:1-3, which says: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers: BUT HIS DELIGHT IS IN THE LAW OF JEHOVAH; AND ON HIS LAW DOTH HE MEDITATE DAY AND NIGHT. And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also doth not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (ASV). I don’t have any hope or expectation that the World-loving, politics-focused Evangelical and Protestant churches and pastors will repent and instead but their hope and work in and into the Paradise to Come and the Kingdom of God and God the King. They are simply too committed to following the ancient and long-standing Catholic-Protestant tradition of Church-State union (though in current practice, it boils down to Church-Republican Party union). But a “few” (Matthew 7:14) can be saved out of that system of the World, and I understand that that is the mission of Jerry Robinson in his ministry.


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