Journey: From the Inside Out (2)

Read: “Why We Worry, Why We Judge”

I see this chapter in tandem with the last one, so I have titled this week’s post and last week’s the same.  The difference is that last week, I noted that healing comes from the inside out.  But this week, McLaren shows that our sicknesses do too.

I remember the day I saw a friend I had not been with for some time.  I knew something was wrong as soon as I laid eyes on him.  His skin color had changed, and so had the whites of his eyes.  He noticed the look on my face, so he began our visit with the announcement, “I have liver cancer.”

In terms of the spiritual life, McLaren is correct:  anxiety, judgmentalism, and feeling unloved “discolor” the soul–as do other things as well.  When we see bitterness, condemnation, and hatred expressed by people toward others, it is because the person is eaten up with such things on the inside.

We may never know how their interior life became jaundiced, but we can always know that, just as a cancerous liver discolors the body, a contaminated soul sours the spirit.  We spew out what is on the inside.

That is why the Bible says “be filled with the Spirit.”  When the Holy Spirit is inside, the fruit of the Spirit is manifested on the outside in both our character and conduct:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

This is the Christlike life, and that is why Paul said it is “Christ in you,” that is our life and our hope of glory.  When Christ lives within us, the disease produced in our soul by things like anxiety, judgmentalism, and lack of love is healed.

So, mark it down—when others spew out vitriolic, negativity, arrogance, unkindness, or any poison that wounds us or some one else, it is coming from deep within their own deformed soul. 

And when we find ourselves thinking, speaking, and doing things that harm others, we must not put the blame on them, but rather pray with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my heart.  See if there is any hurtful way in me…” (Psalm 139:24).  The river of bitterness always has its headwater in our own heart.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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