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Gamaliel's Desk
Friday, October 18, 2002
Gamaliel - The Concept and the Mission
I would like to begin today’s column with an apology. Those of you who are expecting to read a screed from Gamaliel will have to put up with a word from me this week. I have received a number of e-mails from my readers and I feel the time is ripe for some clarification. For the rest of you who “get it,” please bear with me.

Most of you understand the idea that Gamaliel represents a parody of the mindset current among most Evangelical, Fundamentalist and Mainstream denominations today. I believe (based on e-mails I have received from subscribers) that there are Pharisees in every denomination. So I am not targeting any particular group of people, other than the Pharisees, even though you may see a lot of similarities in your current denomination.

However, I am not only writing about “them.” My intent is to hold the mirror up to all of us and see if a Pharisee is looking back or Jesus Christ. My personal challenge is to ask myself, “Whom do I most resemble?” My response to that challenge is to quote many of the things I used to say and believe from the standpoint of an outsider and see how it measures up to the standard of Jesus Christ.

Some misunderstand me because they think I am focusing on “issues” or “customs” or even “traditional worship styles” and practices. None of those are the focus of the Newsletter at all. To be honest, I fail to get excited about a person’s worship style preference, preferred Bible version, musical tastes or any of the other things that seem to upset people at church the most. And before you get bent out of shape on this, I have met Pharisees who preferred contemporary worship just as often as those who preferred traditional or even liturgical worship. There are just as many Pharisees opposing the KJV as there are defending it. Some Pharisees prefer music that is at least 25 years out of date while other Pharisees go in for hip-hop, rap, rock, techno, Gregorian chants, or whatever. Pharisees span the spectrum of church practice.

So what makes a Pharisee? What is it that I’m satirizing in my column? In a word: ATTITUDE. By reading Matthew 23, we see that Pharisees are characterized by a number of traits that distinguish them from Christians (follower and imitators of Jesus Christ).

Am I accusing any of being Pharisees? I don’t need to because Pharisees accuse themselves. And if I were, then my accusations would mean nothing to the true Pharisees who are incapable of seeing themselves for who they are. Instead they see themselves as they wish others would see them. Pharisees take great pride and pleasure in their exclusivism (a subject of a forthcoming column) and have no desire to join the wider body of believers.

No, my column is for the rest of us who know Pharisees or were once practicing Pharisees ourselves (that’s me!) and would like to break out of the trap that Pharisaism offers. Instead we are now trying to be like Christ. Ironically, many of the traditions that we held to, we still practice. What has changed is our attitude. That, and our practice of grace and mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ, are the vestiges of our Pharisee past that we are trying to eradicate. It grieves me to the quick that those who preach God’s grace the loudest put it into practice the least. That to me sums up the crux of what makes a Pharisee.

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