I’m not a huge movie buff; don’t get me wrong, I love movies. But I was raised on a few VHS-tape classics (Indiana Jones all the way!) and never spent much time in the theaters because I was too busy with the adventure of my own life.
Can I just add a side-note to say that whether growing up was full of good things or bad for you, realizing it’s all ultimately an adventure that God has you on can bring so much peace and purpose to those memories? Every moment gave you insight, helped you grow and brought people in and out of your life for a reason. Moses probably hated thinking about the Egyptian he killed; but if that wasn’t in his past, he would have never been in place to hear God’s voice in the bush. Perspective changes things; so let go of the past and find comfort in knowing that even through the pits of snakes and battles with Nazis, Indy always won in the end.
But I digress.
In high school, I was introduced to the “Final Destination” movies by way of school-trip charter bus. I believe it was the second in the series (which permanently scarred me from ever driving behind logging trucks. No. Thank. You.) so I had to be filled in on the general plot. Basically, there was a group of people who were supposed to die in a plane crash, but they didn’t get on the plane and “escaped death.” So in film two, death is hunting them all down, trying to ripple-effect-in-reverse all of the changes caused by them surviving film one.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, you may be as shocked as I was when my brain made a connection between these movies and what I read in my bible this morning.
Matthew 23:25-26 says this:
25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
Have you made the connection yet?
When I first started attending church, I learned about Jesus and God’s love and how in an instant I could accept Him and join the family. What I also learned, was how to start living up to being in that family: stop doing the things God doesn’t want for me, stop speaking in ways that poorly reflect my changed heart, and stop thinking about things that will influence my tongue and actions.
In that order. It’s the reverse-ripple-effect.
I can’t speak for everyone’s first church experience, and I’m thankful to have that first church family build a foundation for me to keep growing. But it seems to me, like this system isn’t working. In an effort to draw closer to God, we’ve started mimicking the Pharisees rather than Jesus.
We try to make sure our outsides look clean first, before we really get into the nitty-gritty of our insides. These reverse-ripples are what leave us trapped within ourselves. That’s what makes pornography addicts take drastic measures to cover their tracks: they so desperately want to look clean on the outside, that they condense all of that dirt in their minds. In essence, we are being taught to become hypocrites by changing our actions before our hearts.
But what if we do something radical, and follow the example of Jesus?
I realize that might sound ridiculous to call it “radical,” but so often we end up following a carbon-copy Jesus—someone who seems similar, but some aspects did not fully transfer over—instead of Jesus himself. We look to our parents for marriage advice instead of Jesus and his church; we look to pastors and books for understanding instead of our bibles and prayer. I’m not saying we can’t learn and grow from people’s examples, Jesus had disciples for a reason, but we need to realize who the ultimate source is and plug in there as well.
So what if, as Jesus tells us, we clean the inside before the outside?
What if we changed out hearts and minds first, and let the speech and actions come second? The biggest issue I see here is our inability to truly follow Jesus’s example. If we change our insides first, yes are actions will follow suit, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never screw up again. It means we beat down the snakes and keep fighting the Nazis. However, truly following Jesus’s example means when we inevitably screw up, we can’t judge and condemn each other for it either.
When Peter got out of the boat, his actions followed his heart. But when he let the world in for a second and stumbled into sinking, Jesus didn’t ridicule him; he picked him up and said have more faith. There’s a difference between judging and encouraging. We need to learn that as a church. The only people Jesus ever condemned were the hypocrites; everyone else had dirty outsides but were open to having washed insides, and Jesus had nothing but compassion for them.
The reality is, there is no such thing as a reverse-ripple-effect. If you dropped a stone in a lake is there any way for you to pull those ripples back in?
Let’s realize that everything branches from the heart and start there. Outward ripples are not a possibility but an inevitability. And when we stumble, we just need to remember that those faults aren’t poisoning the heart, they’re exiting it. Not every ripple will be a solid ring; but we can help each other fill in those gaps without stopping the momentum of our growth.
The enemy can only get closer to you if you’re trying to pull those ripples back in. Let them radiate outward instead; when your heart makes the change, he can only get pushed farther away with each subsequent ring.
What ripples are you trying to bring back in when you should let them leave you for good? How can you encourage and spread compassion instead of judging and condemning? How has following a carbon-copy Jesus affected your spiritual growth?