Finding the Courage to Change from the Inside Out
As a public, we have become cynical and untrusting of what people tell us. There are more stories than we would like of politicians, public officials, and even church leaders who have been exposed as frauds. They appeared to be honest and trustworthy on the outside, but on the inside they were greedy and manipulative.
This is not a modern phenomime. Jesus addressed it in a point-blank manner toward the religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees in particular. They were powerful as the largest group of religious and political leaders, highly respected and often feared by the people. They strictly followed Moses’ law, and held as sacred all the rules and regulations they added. They were proud and unyielding in what they considered to be truth.
A Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. When Jesus did not go through the religious ceremonial hand washing routine, they were astonished. But Jesus was making a point. He said, “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” (Luke 11:34-41 ESV).
In other words, when the inside is right, when the heart is right, the outside actions will be right too.
The Pharisees were convinced they were the standard to be measured by to please a Holy God. How very difficult it was for them to see Jesus as the Messiah. He wasn’t anything like they expected and they were furious.
But there were Pharisees who did accept Jesus as the Christ. The one we know best is Nicodemus who came to Jesus one night with genuine, heart-felt questions. Part of what Jesus told him is the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16.
We could ask: what did it take for Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, to change and accept Jesus as the Christ in spite of all his own rules, regulations, and peer pressure? What kind of courage did he need to risk his reputation and possibly his livelihood to discover and accept Truth Himself?
Perhaps we can learn from Nicodemus. He came to Jesus humbly, as a man hungry for the truth. He recognized Jesus as being from God because of the signs and miracles He performed. His questions were honest and open. Even though he was prominently recognized as a teacher in Israel, he was willing to ask Jesus, a man with no credentials recognized by the Jews, about heavenly things and spiritual life. Not typical of a proud Pharisee.
Whatever it is that we need to change, it takes courage to say, “I was wrong, show me what’s right”. It takes humility to admit failure or to ask for forgiveness. And it takes both to change from the inside out.