You have a new next door neighbor. You think that he is a little eccentric. He’s not like the neighbor who lived there before. He has some unusual ideas about the issues of today. At least, those ideas seem unusual to you. He is by all accounts a nice man, even a humble man. But he doesn’t have the same point of view as you do. He is more on the liberal side of the socio-political spectrum, whereas you and others in the neighborhood are more on the conservative side.
And so the neighborhood is gossiping about him. What are they saying? His ideas are unsettling. His ideas make sense, but only if you turn your head 30 degrees to the left and squint. People are shocked and disturbed at his comments. They don’t think he should be speaking, so readily and publicly, in off-the-cuff remarks. And all of his critics themselves speak readily, publicly, in off-the-cuff remarks, and on the very same subjects of conversation. So, basically, he shouldn’t speak off-the-cuff, unless he is saying what you want to hear.
The people of the neighborhood are judging this man. Not everything they say about him is negative. They judge him, and the sentence of their judgment is sometimes in his favor, and other times not. But they judge him, and they find him to be less worthy than themselves. They are condescending toward him in a subtle, and at times not-so-subtle manner. They judge their neighbor, and they judge him unjustly.
Now this man has a job in the community. He’s a teacher. And his teaching credentials are impeccable. But this fact, known to all in the neighborhood, is ignored by these gossipers. They ridicule any ideas he expresses, if those ideas are not immediately and plainly in agreement with their own minds. So when this new teacher in the neighborhood expresses an idea, they judge that idea by comparison with their own minds. If he in any way departs from their own point of view, they gossip about him with subtle insults, denigrating remarks, backhanded complements, and condescension.
On occasion, they admit to having learned something from this teacher, but only in the way that an adult will sometimes say that they have learned from a child. For it always seems to each of them that their own thoughts are much better, more insightful, and more certain to be correct than those of this new neighbor. And they would much prefer it if he did not speak at all.
From a Christian point of view, the members of this neighborhood are sinning. They gossip. They judge. They treat their neighbor as if he were lesser, and they were greater. They rebuke him because he teaches publicly with informal off-the-cuff remarks. And yet they do the same. But there is a difference. He is well-qualified for his role as a teacher, and their qualifications are meager or non-existent. He would teach them much, but they are not willing.
The same situation occurred with the Pharisees and Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke publicly, and His words were controversial. He taught all who were willing to listen with an open heart. But the Pharisees were not willing. In order to learn from Jesus, they would have to admit that He understands religion better than they do. In order to learn from Jesus, they would have to stop acting as if they were everyone else’s teacher, and become a student of His. They were not willing to take the lower place, so that Jesus could be their Teacher and Leader.
And so it is also today, in the neighborhood of the Church.