And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”(MRK 7:20-23 ESV)
There’s a saying that I heard referring to someone of a particularly distasteful character. That saying suggested that the individual was rotten to the core. Hearing that about someone kept me on the alert about such a character.
As I discovered the reality of the situation was not just that they were rotten to the core, but they were rotten from the core. It all started from within. The corrupting, compromising, destabilising and debilitating attributes were not just a case of the environmental factors, it started from within. Later on still it came as something as a surprise to discover this was not just about particular individuals either. In one unforgettable season of my life I was shown in a very graphic and painful way that this issue was evident in me. The ugliness displayed in behaviours and words and sentiments actually came from within. For all the more pleasant aspects of my personality there were elements inherently corrosive and toxic. That which was manifest without was birthed from within.
Exploring bad fruit recently in the context of what we produce and why we have produced from that initial act of rebellion against God, made me reflect on what Jesus said in explanation to His disciples about what defiles someone. What makes them unclean is not primarily about their diet and their inability to follow eating protocol. Even the most upstanding members of the community can be corrupt from the inside. Their portrayal of probity and honesty might all be well and good, they can tick all the right boxes where social etiquette is concerned and yet deep within lurks a heart that is not pure. Monitored carefully for public consumption, their private lives are still wracked grappling with the dark aspects that creep up. Sometimes it’s excused with the statement: we all have our vices. Yet even that doesn’t provide the real consolation required.
Our expression of independence from the Source of Life always leaves us with that problem. An inside problem that is not dealt with through psychotherapy. An inside problem that is not solved by hypnosis. An inside problem for which no medication, education or legislation can resolve.
That’s why the offer Jesus gives is not to do up our current lives – He gives us new life. From something inherently corrupt from the inside, He replaces it with His own life that is inherently pure in nature. Recognition of that which is rotten from the inside can lead to change when we return to the Source. Returning to the Source, submitting to the Source, planting deeply in the Source gives us new ways of dealing with old problems that over time lead to fruitful living because of who now is in control from within us.
That’s an individual reality and that’s a communal reality if we embrace the good news of the good fruit available to us from the tree of life. Returning to the Source is a return to what makes us right with God, what makes us right with each other and what makes us right in our engagement with the world around us.
I got fed up with being rotten from the core of my being. I got sick and tired of the lame excuse that it was just the way I am and I couldn’t help it. I got frustrated about the inability to change. I got to my wits end. It was clear that something needed to change. He had always been there to make that change if I would give up being in charge. That was difficult to apply in every aspect of my life – it’s not always automatic even now. Yet true to His Word, when His life was allowed to express Himself through me there was no time, no inclination and no succumbing to any rotten tendencies. Not because of great will power or putting in more effort – just because He that lives within really is greater than he that is in the world. Growing in knowing Him, planting life in Him over time leads to those experiences of that fruitful life overcoming bad fruit syndrome by letting new life rule within.
The battle is not over in the day to day issues, yet in a very real sense the war is won thanks to Jesus defeating the bad fruit that made me rotten from the core.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden