Monday, June 06, 2022

First Heal the Evil Within; Then, Heal the Evil Without


(One of our youth wrote this on the sidewalk entrance to our church building.)

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 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 atmosphere around us.

Twenty 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 was no ongoing personal transformation of individual leaders, then hopes of cultural transformation were diminished, if not entirely gone.

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

My Personal Transformation course was the first course the doctoral students would take. It was exhilarating, as I saw God healing 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? If you answer yes, the change begins with your own self. 

If you do not begin with your own self, your labors will be inauthentic, even irrelevant. 

It is hypocrisy to work at changing people around you if you are not yourself being constantly changed. But, if you allow God to heal and restore and renew your inner self, you will find that the break-up going on in you will lead to breakthrough around you.