What seems to be the problem?

21 August 2013

Last Sunday we saw Jesus slamming the Pharisees for claiming to be ‘clean’ when in fact they were deeply unclean; they were classic hypocrites (literally, ‘ones wearing a mask’).

Along the way Jesus makes this stunning claim;

‘from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person’ (Mark 7.21-23).

This is huge. Pretty much every idea we’ve ever had in the history of the world about how to improve or fix the world’s problems has missed (or denied) this. In a sense, every proposed problem/solution is about something ‘out there’. Communism says inequality of wealth is the fundamental problem; racism says that a particular colour of skin is the problem; sexism and ageism say a particular sex or age is the problem; educationalists say a lack of education is the root problem; mass-collaborationists say a lack of openness and collaboration is the problem. And so on. Jesus says the root problem is ‘in here’. He says that the tendencies of the human heart are what give rise to inequalities, prejudices, and suffering. All of our ideas about how to fix the world don’t get at the root cause.

In fact, we do understand this – even if we don’t like it. Solzhenitsyn said that the ‘line between good and evil is a line that runs through the human heart’. We know that no one needs to teach a young child to lie or fight; those impulses seem to come from within them.

It’s an unbearably bleak diagnosis; that we are sinners. Sin comes from inside you and me – not just from outside. Yes, we’re in a cross-fire of human suffering, but we’re all firing some bullets. Perhaps this fact is why we work so hard to avoid facing facts. Only the message of Jesus calls a spade a spade – and provides a perfect solution.

It is a big claim that Jesus makes here. But elsewhere he makes an even bigger one; that he can make us new (Christians talk about becoming ‘born again’). Jesus claims to be able to give ‘new hearts’ to those who turn and trust him; he promises to begin a life-long process of making us clean from the inside out – beginning with our hearts.

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.