BY: Hunter Sharpless
The Bible is a story about God, but it is also a story about man. The Bible, despite its many commandments and creeds, is about interior transformation. From the Ten Commandments—“thou shall not covet”—to Jeremiah—“the heart is deceitful above all things; and desperately sick”—to the Psalms—“I shall not want”—to the Sermon on the Mount—“blessed are the pure in heart”—the message is the definition, diagnosis, and transformation of the interior self.
I think that to be radical is to reign in one’s own soul—to admit that the oppression, greed, and prejudice that steep this world in evil fester in one’s own heart. The same motivations that drive dictators to oppress their people live in me. I am guilty of being greedy, of heaping up silly treasures in my house. A new watch, or some fancy socks, or a pair of Italian loafers. I own more than I need. In my mind I know how superfluous these things are, yet still I crave them. I am guilty of using power or position to manipulate, to subjugate others, however small my ways. I am guilty of being a bully. And I am guilty of prejudice, very guilty. In fact I judge almost every moment; I assess harshly; I like to be right; I like to win; and I like when others are wrong next to my own rightness.
I believe that the injustice of the world finds its birth in the individual human heart—in my individual human heart—not in systems or powers external to me. If what Christ taught is true—if the disease of man that fosters injustice is an interior, spiritual problem—then we will not win with revolution; we will fail to conquer evil, even a little. Goodness begins with interior transformation. Goodness begins with the discovery of the true self—the secret self hidden in the mystery of Christ.
In Luke 5, Christ heals a paralytic whose friends lower him through the roof of a house in which Christ is preaching.
When he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
Christ healed the man’s spiritual disease first, the man’s physical disease second. And so it is throughout his ministry, for to be a Christian is to be a person who undergoes an interior, spiritual revolution thanks to the grace and love of God. This is radical love, radical change. This is the divine, pure love that shapes the individual into someone capable of changing the world.