Church leaders need to be on guard against the Pharisee syndrome.
The Pharisee syndrome is my shorthand for the dilemma the Pharisees
found themselves in when confronted by the person of Jesus Christ and
the truth He taught. The Pharisees were influential church leaders. But
then Jesus called them hypocrites, and warned His disciples to beware their leaven.
(What is the leaven, the teaching, of the Pharisees? That is a whole
nother post, but we can start discussing it in the comments.)
So then the Pharisees took offense at Jesus. The first red flag, if you are watching out for the Pharisee syndrome, is getting offended because of the Word. Man's ways are not God's ways, and our natural thoughts are not His thoughts.
Our natural inclination, sense of right and wrong, and comfort zone is
likely to be wrong, unless we have spent considerable time renewing our minds by washing it in the water of the Word.
And even then, we need to have the inflexible policy that the Word is
always right, no matter what. The Word is always true, no matter what.
I must conform to it, I must never make it conform to me.
So the Pharisees' next step, after getting offended at Jesus, was to begin to examine Him about different things. (Mt 16:1, Mt 19:3, Mt 22:15, Mt 22:34-35.)
The examining is not to find out the truth; it wasn't for the
Pharisees. That is the second red flag. Do we question because we
really want to find the truth, and are willing to conform to that truth
once we discover it, or are we questioning because we already believe
what we believe, and now we just want to justify it somehow?
The Pharisees fall into the second camp. Their mind was already made up, which was why they could ask for a sign of authority
from Him who fed thousands, who healed the sick, who walked on water,
who raised the dead. No, the purpose of the examining, for them, was to
entrap Him; to entrap the Word in an inconsistency would be today's
equivalent. Why, though? So He can then be dismissed, so the Word can
then be dismissed, and their interpretation, which is really their
personal preference, raised to legitimacy.
When Jesus asked the church leaders whether the baptism of John was from heaven or from men,
they reasoned among themselves: if we say from heaven, He will say, why
then did you not believe him? But if we say from men [this is what they
really believed] we fear the people. So they answered, “We do not
know.” Please notice that this is not what they believed. In order to continue in acceptance with the people,
they answered, “we do not know.” That is the Pharisee syndrome. When
today's church leaders claim they do not know what to think of
Scriptures spelled out in the plainest possible language, they have
already fallen prey to the Pharisee syndrome.