Friday, May 28, 2010

Heal the Evil Within

Thomas Merton wrote: "The history of the world, with the material destruction of cities and nations and people, expressed the interior division that tyrannizes the souls of all men, and even of the saints." (New Seeds of Contemplation, 71)

Here we see the Merton-idea, and I think the Jesus-idea, that the genesis of moral evil lies in the evil within the human heart. Out of our own inner fragmentation comes the outward systemic fragmentation of families, marriages, and civic institutions. As long as one's own heart remains untransformed so will the world around us.

Fifteen years ago I was invited to help develop the Doctor of Ministry program at Palmer Theological Seminary (then "Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary"). The thrust of the program was to bring renewal to all areas of life: to the church, to the city, and to the world. Ecclesial, urban, and global transformation - good things! But we agreed that, if there were no personal transformation of individual leaders, then the hopes of cultural tranformation were dimished, if not entirely gone.

So, a decision was made to place a course called Personal Transformation (PT) first. D.Min. students would take PT before our courses on ecclesial, urban, and global transformation. We resisted the temptation to get on to the exciting thngs of global transformation, and discovered the inner world of the self that awaited further transformation, restoration, and renewal.

For the past 15 years I have taught PT as course #1 on Palmer's D.Min. program. It's been exhilarating for me as I have seen God time and time again heal the "interior division that tyrannizes the souls of all men, and even of the saints."

Do you desire to be an agent of renewal and transformation in the world? Begin with your own self. If you choose not to do this your labors will prove to be inauthentic and even irrelevant. It is an act of sheer hypocrisy to work at changing the people around you if you are not yourself being constantly changed. But if you allow God to heal and retore and renew your own inner self, then you will find that the break-up going on within you will lead to breakthrough around you.