Skip to main content

The inner Pharisee and the engine of fear

I got back from our annual youth retreat yesterday. It was meaningful and fun though exhausting. I preached a message from John 7:53-8:11 (Jesus and the adulteress) that was received surprisingly well. I wrestled with how to communicate this text in our particular Asian American context. It seems like most affluent, high-functioning, church-going Asian kids don't struggle with overt sin issues like premarital sex, drugs, and alcohol, etc. I wondered how I would talk about someone being caught in the act of adultery. I could not think of a truly humiliating moment where I was caught doing something wrong. Most of my embarrassing moments are not shameful. And the truly shameful moments I could only share with my closet friends. Even so, those moments did not include any type of public shaming. That would be unbearable.

I live in fear of public shame. Many things I do are meant to avoid humiliation. I condemn myself and imagine the condemnation of others so that I can be motivated to behave correctly. This means I am far more critical of myself than I am of others. In fact, my condemnation of others indicates my own self-loathing. And self-condemnation is the gasoline of the fear engine. It keeps us running on the treadmill of Christian works. But eventually we get tired. I think most of us Asian Americans operate like this. And that's why I wanted to develop the idea of the inner Pharisee.

Among highly moral people, I suspect the inner Pharisee may be the biggest obstacle to receiving the gospel and enjoying the grace of Jesus Christ.


Popular posts from this blog

A Dad's Review of Passport 2 Purity

[3,100 words, 11 minute read]

The sex talk is one of the most dreaded conversations parents anticipate having with their children. To make things easier, an entire industry exists to help parents with sex education. Dozens of books have been written to help parents navigate this treacherous topic with their progeny. One of the best known among evangelicals is called the Passport 2 Purity Getaway package. It is produced by FamilyLife, a division of Cru (former Campus Crusade for Christ) and consists of a five lecture CD package including a journal and exercises designed as a weekend retreat for a pre-pubescent child and his/her parent(s).

Passport 2 Purity was not my initiative. Our trip came about because Judy had heard from several home-schooling mom friends how they had taken their daughters on a road trip to go through the CDs. She even heard how a mom took a trip with husband and two sons to through the curriculum. So a couple months ago, Judy suggested we take our two older boys o…

Planting a Church. Finally.

James Taylor, the great grandson of Hudson Taylor, the famed missionary to China who founded the China Inland Mission (now OMF) once said: “It is a tragedy so many foreign Chinese have left the evangelization of China up to the non-Chinese.”

James spoke those words over twenty-five years ago during a Chinese church retreat when I was a senior in high school. His calling out of the Chinese diaspora vis-a-vis white missionaries challenged and haunted me. This challenge was the impetus behind my plans to join Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) staff to do a one-year mission trip to China. But I didn’t go. Rather, I accepted an invitation from my hometown pastor, Tom Chow, to return to San Jose and reach my American-born Chinese peers.

After nine years of working as a project manager and volunteering with the youth group and young adult ministry, I joined the staff of my home church, Chinese Church in Christ - South Valley (South Valley) in 2006. In the summer of 2007, South Valley l…

Why Asians Run Slower

My brother got me David Epstein's book The Sports Gene. It is a fascinating quick read. If you're interested in sports and science, it will enthrall you. I finished it in three days.

Epstein's point is that far more of an athlete's performance is due to genetics than due to the so-called "10,000 hour" rule promulgated by books such as Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin (both which are very good). The 10,000 hour rule states that any person can reach expert level of performance in a sport if they devote 10,000 hours of deliberate and intentional practice. 
That's a lot of hours. Most people aren't capable of anywhere close. And that's precisely Epstein's point.
Someone who devotes 10,000 hours of sport-specific practice is likely genetically gifted for the sport in extraordinary ways AND genetically gifted in their ability to persevere and benefit from practice. Therefore, a person who can practice that much is…