John 1:22–28 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John the Baptizer was a bit of an outlaw cowboy. Unlike the typical religious leader who parted his hair, tucked in his shirt, and drove his sensible sedan to seminary, he was the kind of guy with a tattoo who rode a Harley through the desert listening to Waylon Jennings.
John’s uniqueness as a preacher made him an instant hit. Thousands of people flocked to hear him preach, so the religious leaders sharpened their pencils, loaded up their clipboards with lists of questions, and went to investigate John. Who is this guy? Who gave him the right to preach?
Within Old Testament faith in that day were various groups that are a bit like political parties in our day. The Sadducees were the liberals. The Pharisees were the conservatives.
The Pharisees were separatists. This meant that they took the Bible very seriously, tried to obey its laws, and lived apart from the godless culture as best they could. Their most famous member we now know as the apostle Paul. They were not really an official group, but they had kind of self-selected themselves as the defenders of the faith and became the most powerful religious group at the time of Jesus according to ancient historians such as Josephus.
If you take the Bible very seriously, care a lot about holiness, and are concerned about false teaching and compromise among God’s people you (and I) need to be wary. That’s how the Pharisees started. Their problem, however, is that they were “biblical” but not relational. They were so focused on their detailed doctrinal distinctions that they forgot that the big idea of the Bible is to love God and people as Jesus taught. So, when Jesus came into history, rather than learning form Him, they criticized Him. And, rather than befriend Him, they opposed Him. It just goes to show that you are not truly biblical unless you are also relational with Jesus and others.
Would you consider yourself more prone toward being doctrinal (what you believe) or relational (who you love)? Is there any imbalance there that needs to be corrected?