by Kirsten Patterson
August 24, 2022
In a few weeks, our women’s Bible studies at Fullerton Free will be studying the Gospel of Luke. I’ve been reading through this book over the summer, and the other day I was struck by something. If you have read any of the Gospels, you’ve met the Pharisees, those noxious religious leaders so intent on following every letter of the law that they would rather someone remain crippled than be healed on the Sabbath. But in Luke 1, we meet Zechariah and Elizabeth and verse 6 says, “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” Wait, I thought the scrupulous rule-followers were the bad guys in the Gospels!
How do we go from Elizabeth and Zechariah who follow all of God’s commands and are called righteous, to the Pharisees who follow all of the commands (and extra commands around the commands to make sure they don’t accidentally miss a command) but Jesus calls them hypocrites and unmarked graves? In Luke 11, Jesus says that the Pharisees have neglected justice and the love of God. They and the religious lawyers have loaded people down with heavy burdens; and even though they are the experts they have taken away the key to knowledge and held people back from truth. Goodness, that’s a heavy charge! Not only are they going at things the wrong way, they’re taking other people down with them.
As someone who has been immersed in the Christian faith since infancy, has been educated in Christian institutions and is a member and volunteer here at Fullerton Free, I think it’s very relevant for me to ask myself, are there any ways of the Pharisee in me? Are the truths I uphold and promote pointing people to Jesus and setting them free to pursue righteousness and the love of God? Or are there any preferences, traditions or safeguards that have calcified and become barriers, loading people down with expectations and presenting a misleading image of God? And perhaps most critically . . . how can I know the difference? I suspect the answer lies with Jesus.
Our study of the book of Luke couldn’t be more timely this fall. In it we meet Jesus, the traveling rabbi with a miraculous birth story, an unlikely mix of followers and an uncanny ability to enrage the religious establishment with his revelation of Truth. Whether you’re a lifetime church member, someone who has struggled under the heavy burdens of organized religion and/or you’re just trying to sort out who Jesus is and what he stands for, consider this your invitation to study Luke’s account with us!
Kirsten is a reader, thinker and coffee drinker who grew up here at Fullerton Free. She now attends with her husband and two kids and discovered this summer that heaven is paddle-boarding down the Deschutes River in Bend, Oregon.