Most Christians desire very deeply to be known as gracious, kind, patient, and forgiving. We feel we “owe” it to Jesus to be seen on our best behavior. This is even truer for those of us in “the ministry,” whose lives are publicly attached to Jesus. Now, some of the motivation behind this is beautiful (we’ll look at the rest in a moment). We know how horribly religion has distorted the world’s view of God, and we want very much to gain a hearing for Jesus, so we go to great lengths to reassure the wary that those aligned with Jesus are really great people. In fact, nowadays most Christian leaders bend over backward to come across as very cool and hip and in no way whatsoever judgmental or condemning. It’s the new PR campaign for Jesus.
The problem is, in our efforts to be good poster children for Christianity, we have sort of hidden or left off this other side of Jesus’ personality. The man is dead serious about holiness.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25–26)
I would love to have heard his tone of voice, seen the expression on his face. I think we can be fairly confident that when Jesus thundered, “Woe to you,” everyone just about peed their pants. And what is the issue here? Shallow holiness. Faking it. Ignoring the deeper issues of the soul. As far as Jesus is concerned, holiness is a matter of the heart. “Clean the inside of the cup and dish, and the outside will be cleaned as well.” The model of personal transformation that Christianity offers is internal to external. It’s a transformation of the heart, the mind, the will, the soul—which then begins to express itself externally in our actions. This is absolutely critical in order to understand Jesus and his genuine goodness.