Eugene Cho

i am a pharisee

Don’t read the full post yet. First, take look at the above piece of art and share your thoughts:

  • What do you see?
  • How do you interpret this art?
  • How do you feel about this?

For me (as a “minister”), it is sobering to consider how we as “professional clergy” might – for various reasons – may have missed important aspects of what Christ desires us to see, know, and experience.  I look at the art and wonder, “Are we the blind leading the seeking?”

The turning point for me came through an epiphany couple years ago.

I’ve come to realize – not in a self-deprecating way – that as much as I have tried NOT to be…

I AM a Pharisee.

The difference – from moi – and from the Pharisees of the Scriptures – is that I acknowledge and celebrate my need for Jesus and to be regularly informed and transformed by not only the Scriptures, traditions, but the living presence and power of Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Ultimately, it leads me to be a worshipper of the Triune God.

Yet, as much as I seek to avoid the common traps, it’s so easy to gravitate towards laws, bylaws, rules, behavior, buildings, money, personal fame, and the like. This is why I read this often:

to remind myself that God is actually talking to ME even though I’d like to often think it’s about YOU.

And this is why I choose to live by Grace.

Because any other path will lead us away from the personal Truth of Christ.

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Artist: Michael Belk

Artist description:

By the time Jesus began his ministry in the early days of the First Century, the Pharisees, who were the religious elite of that time, had interpreted the Jewish law by adding many of their own rules. There were so many do’s and don’ts that religious life had become a burden to the Jewish people.

There are many in our religious communities, like the Pharisees of old, who have allowed the process of religion to overcome the purpose of Christ. Jesus referred to these people as the “blind leading the blind” and said they would “fall into a ditch.”

In all aspect of life, but especially in knowing the truth of God, its our responsibility to sift through the clutter of religious practices that may be getting in the way of seeking a relationship with Christ.

After all, Jesus did not come to start a religion; He came to testify to the truth of God and offer a revolutionary new way of living out God’s plan.

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16 Responses

  1. your friend says:

    I immediately noticed how neat and clean the pharisees were and Jesus clothes showed his active work among people, a man who gets his hands dirty during practical ministry.

    There was a hint of hierachy in the picture, except the child and Jesus.

    I also noticed the innocence of the child, who looked up the his elders, and I pondered upon the awesome responsibility we have as we are examples, we ALWAYS model SOMETHING to kids, good or bad.

    I was especially impressed by the artist how he managed to portray Jesus’ face and statue as non-condemnational! This is a picture of Jesus expressing GRACE. Beautiful.

  2. Chris says:

    Hey Eugene,

    Great post! Just wanted to let you know that the link towards the bottom of the post is broken.

  3. TIC says:

    When I realized that I was a Pharisee a great book came my way about grace: Grace in Practice by Paul Zahl. One could call him a grace extremist. We need to be grace extremists since our proclivities toward Law are so strong.

  4. Deb says:

    Besides the look of innocence of the child as well as his look of seeming to be asking for something, anything, from the adults in the picture, I am struck too by how similar his appearance is to Jesus, in contrast to the other people. Am I looking to Jesus, as my example? Is that my desire, to look like Him? And to look past all the “noise” around me, to see His truth and follow Him?

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eugene Cho. Eugene Cho said: The turning point in my life was coming to terms that I AM A PHARISEE: http://bit.ly/9vbi9Z […]

  6. Steven Kim says:

    I see and appreciate where you are going with this, but is the term “Pharisee” the right word? Are you, or were you an “Offspring of Vipers”, as John the Baptist put it?

    I think we need to be careful as to not paint the clergy (since you are one and are being self-deprecating, IMO) as being the pharisees of today – your view can easily color the good character of many clergy and stigmatizes the learned clergy. I come from the Charles and John Wesley tradition 🙂

  7. jchenwa says:

    Just my thoughts, in Luke 12, the yeast of the Pharisees is hypocrisy. Jesus is shown as a regular guy in the art, yet He was the purest of the pure, the Lamb of GOD. Although we are children of GOD, we still make mistakes, we are all hypocrites. We’re no better than the non-believer, yet some among us roll holy. I’m a Pharisee sometimes too.

  8. nadine.w says:

    Good stuff! Definitely processing it and asking God to show me how this applies to me…

  9. Following directions and looking at the picture first, it makes me feel disappointed. It’s like we adults are walking the wrong direction down a hallway, dragging the kid behind us who see’s the direction we should go. Jesus is even standing there looking at us like, “guys, I’m over here. Come this way”, instead, we’re literally blindly following a book that we ironically can’t read because of our blindfolds.

    Powerful image.

  10. matt says:

    I guess when I look at this I wonder if Jesus meant to come and re-establish a new clergy/laity system at all or if he had a more radical idea and we keep falling into the same old patterns.

    You will be for me a kingdom of priests…not a kingdom with priests. Ex 19-6

  11. Larry says:

    I get the point of the piece. Certainly leaders of God’s people in every age can be the blind leading the blind. Yet the piece in choosing to represent leaders only in traditional liturgical garb, exempts the pastor in the business suit or casual garb. I see a not so subtle polemic against Reformed and Catholic leadership. Not saying they should be exempt but what the image is trying to convey isn’t about a particular form of faith but the human condition when it gains leadership. Like much of this artists work it is heavy handed in ways that I think distorts the truth the artist wishes to portray.

  12. Larry says:

    The artist and we also forget that while the negative connotation of “Pharisee” as a certain accuracy, Jesus was himself of the pharisee “sect” grouping, “denomination” within 1st century Judaism.
    We are all pharisees, the sooner all Christians realize that the better. You don’t have to fall into blatant hypocrisy to be a “pharisee”, the Pharisee’s were trying to restore and rehabilitate the people of God who had fallen away from the Torah. If God’s plan hadn’t been for the incarnation and Jesus Christ being the Torah and fulfilling the Torah, the Pharisees would have been correct. And not all of them were the Blind leading the blind.

  13. stephen says:

    Hey Eugene! Thanks for this post! it’s so easy as a pastor to point the finger at people playing Pharisee, who judge movements of the Spirit as risky or persecute ministry peeps who are following where they believe Christ leads them. Just had a conversation last week with a guy who plainly defended actions against a minister who was “eating with sinners…” My conclusion? He’s a Pharisee! But your conclusion came at a great time, preventing me to the same kind of dumb judgmentalism – instead, the conversation will continue in humility!
    Thanks for your transparency, let the reconciliation continue~

  14. As a pastor, i am by definition a walking target and subject to corruption. Powerful piece of art, it depicts at a glance what we would write papers about. This is why creativity is increasingly present in the western church. We should nurture it and walking as the child in the picture we can look at Jesus with seeing eyes.

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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
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