Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”
Can you, my reader, see how this verse could in any way be applied to you? Does the image you present to others look better than the truth at your heart? Is the way you live in tune with what you hold inside?
(This, by the way, is the essence of hypocrisy–to act as if you are better than what you know yourself to really be.)
This image is almost entirely untrue for me now, but it wasn’t always so. There was a time when I projected an image that was better than what I knew myself to be at heart. It was when I was first going to college I realized that in order to clean out the inside of the tomb, I needed to open it up to the air.
This led to a difficult decision for me. As much as I was capable, which was not fully at the time, I chose to disregard other peoples’ estimation of me, either good or bad. In many people this might have been an act of rebellion, especially considering the age I was at. For me it was anything but.
Luke 10: 25-28 “On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” He replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.
First, with all your heart…
At the time, I lived in fear of man.
Fear is a difficult word, especially in a Biblical context, because it can have so many denotative meanings. In this sense, it means that I concerned myself with what man thinks and allowed that to move me emotionally and to occupy my mind. Ironically, at the time I was actually afraid of what people thought. Others’ opinions of my own actions brought me shame, and thus other peoples’ opinions were very much to be feared.
It was this realization that led me to the rejection of the “fear” of man, for good or ill. Better, I thought, to try with all my might to please God and in doing so offend everyone who crosses my path than to divert even a tiny bit of my strength to pleasing others. Nor was this a simple rejection of facades–putting on a show for other people–it went deeper than that.
Matthew 5: 27-29 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
I decided that if God looks on the heart, and it was His opinion that I was to regard, I would purge myself of that fear of man by living from my heart, for good or ill. There were standards in my life that I lived up to simply because other people thought they were right. …I might even agree, but I was not doing the right thing because it was right, I was doing it because other people would think less of me if I didn’t.
I chose to reject that way of living, even though I knew it meant letting all the rottenness that really was inside me out where it could stink up my life and push other people away.
A lonely road…
And it has–many people have found me absolutely repulsive, because I do not hide my weaknesses or my sins or my darkness. For anyone who has eyes to see them, those things are there, right on the surface. Even the people closest to me have been repelled, many times.
It took a long time to truly purge that fear of man from my heart, but in so doing I have discovered an ironic truth. Those who are really worth having as friends will not be offended by the truth, even when it really is ugly or unpleasant. For those who are seeking the light, truth is the most valuable commodity.
…and as I continue, I find that while I continue to open my heart to Him and the distractions like that one are lifted away, He has begun to purify my heart. The things that I used to be ashamed of, the things that others condemned me for and the darkness that once dwelt inside me are slowly falling away.
I am left, as always, with awe… and with joy… and with gratitude to my Lord.
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.