What’s the most flattering name you’ve ever been called?
What’s the least flattering name you’ve been called?
Ouch. None of those are names I want to be called. But Jesus called the Pharisees these names in Matthew 23. Then, towards the end, he tacks on what I think is both the best descriptor and the most cutting of all.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28 (ESV)
I really appreciate Jesus’s level of keep-it-real-ness in this chapter. Jesus wasn’t afraid of conflict and he was willing to call out sin and injustice where he saw it. Jesus doesn’t play.
But I empathize with that whitewashed tomb. I empathize with the plight of the Pharisees, which is a really awkward sentence to type out. In the Gospel narrative, the Pharisees are the bad guys and yet, I find myself getting where they were coming from.
Before I met Christ, I did my best to construct an outward persona of perfection so that I would be liked, accepted, loved or whatever else I was feeling at the time. Perfectionism served a large purpose in my life and filled a hole I thought would never be able to be filled otherwise.
Then I met Christ and, while the Truth was preached, I fell into the Christian-version of perfectionism: legalism. I learned to define myself by my works instead of my faith in God. I was less concerned with what God had done for me and intensely focused on what I could do for him. Though I was saved and trusted him, I still did my best to maintain appearances: I was a whitewashed tomb.
Thank God that he can save even a whitewashed tomb like me. I’m immensely grateful that I no longer have to try and be perfect (which I can never achieve anyway) because perfection already laid down his life for me. I am seen as perfect in God’s eyes because he doesn’t see me through the lens of sin but through the lens of his son.
Those labels of blind, fool, and whitewashed tomb no longer describe me.
I now answer to daughter, beloved, and free.
What names do you answer to?