Dad passed an article on to be by Ron Nikkel (president of Prison Fellowship International). you can find his past articles here - it is part Nikkel's 'Conversatio Morum' newsletter series and is entitled 'Contaminations'.
his reflection surrounds Jesus warning to his disciples, "beware of the yeast of the pharisees" (Matt. 16:6). This article is particularly interesting given that his former boss, Chuck Colson, has been one of the more outspoken 'friends' of the current administration (which of course offers the same risks to Christians as all the previous administrations). here are the last few paragraphs. i'm very challenged by it thinking through my own expectations for world peace or my own need for bread.
"One day as Jesus was preparing to launch out across the sea, his disciples were arguing amongst themselves about the lack of planning and preparation for their voyage. There was no lunch for the journey – whose responsibility was it anyhow? What good was a single loaf of bread between them? “Beware of the contaminating influence of the Pharisees and of Herod,” Jesus remarked as he stepped into the boat with them. Somewhat perplexed by his comment, the disciples muttered to themselves, “It must be because we did not bring the bread.” On hearing their continuing argument Jesus asked them to recall the recent feeding of the multitudes when but a single lunch had been available and yet sufficient to feed thousands. How quickly the lesson of trusting in God’s power and provision had been forgotten.
How easily we, like the disciples, become contaminated by the ways of the Pharisees and of Herod in our day. The contaminating influence of thinking like Pharisees lies in acting as if true religion is about believing, speaking, and doing the accepted and prescribed things of faith – and that God cares only for the good and for things beyond our reach. When the Pharisees were confronted with Jesus, who acted “outside that religious box,” again and again they demanded a miraculous sign -- real proof. How could the holy God of heaven possibly involve himself with the simple mundane needs of life like bread and wine, or stoop to care for loose women or Iraqi insurgents? But the fact is that God did – and still does.
The contamination of Herod is not religious at all, but down to earth and most pragmatic. It is all about being competent and in control – mastering the details of our own lives and those of others. Politics and performance becomes god-of-the-day under whom we assume responsibility for ourselves and the world. We bless and blame our own effort and responsibility as if lunch and life and the state of nations are completely in the hands of our own responsibility.
Beware of the contaminating influence of the Pharisees, by which we marginalize God to the higher things of heaven, disinterested in rough, routine and earthly stuff like the bread we need for the voyage or the lives of suicide bombers who threaten us in Afghanistan. Beware of the contaminating influence of Herod, by which we replace God with our own political sensibility and the competence of our own planning and preparation to secure bread for lunch and oil for our cars.
Believe in God, trust God – the One who turned water into wine for a wedding; who fed a multitude with a few loaves and fish; who dared to touch an unclean leper; who dined with sinners and prostitutes; who calmed the stormy sea – He is the God who cares for you in all the places and circumstances of your life."