Growing up as an Indian girl in an honor-shame culture, I was always so focused on the exterior. I knew how to hide my true feeling and opinions because I had to do it so often. I was a master performer because I needed everything to look good, clean, and put together for a world that was watching and judging me. I also grew up in a very religious home where morality had become an idol. So for most of my adolescence, I strived to check off the big religious and cultural boxes to appear holy and good. I was cautious of where I went and whom I spent time with. I thought if I just didn’t drink, go out to the clubs, wear miniskirts, sleep around, and if I could avoid people that live this way, then I could make my parents see that I am good and God would see that I was holy.
I became very judgmental of those who didn’t live this way. Ultimately, I didn’t understand the grace of God because I thought I was a good person, morally upright and living out the Christian values I was taught.
Here is the problem, no one is good. I am capable of doing good things, but I am not wholly and completely good all the time. I mean when I compare myself to some people, I may seem good in my own eyes, but when Christ is my standard, I fall short every time.
My pursuit of holiness and goodness was more about external perception than an inward transformation. On the outside, I looked the part of a good Indian Christian girl, but deep inside I struggled with pride, envy, and anger.
In Matthew 15:11, Jesus tells a bunch of rule-following, self-righteous Pharisees, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”
God had given the children of Israel laws to teach them to live differently than the world around them, so that they could be set apart as a people that pursued God’s heart. Instead, they pursued the laws and missed God’s heart, so Jesus comes to show the world how we ought to truly pursue God’s heart. It isn’t simply by following religious rules; it is through relationship.
Humans understand rules and can, for the most part, follow a checklist, but a relationship takes more effort. Rules are concrete, and relationships can be messy. Like these Pharisees, so often in life it is easier to go through the motions and check off boxes than to really engage with God’s Word and live after His heart. Rules weren’t the problem. The law was meant to lead them to love God, but then the law became the idol they loved more than God. They lived a life avoiding sinners, sick people, and dead things because they thought that would make them holy and good, but their hearts were far from God.
I was so focused on how clean my hands looked, that I didn’t see how dirty my heart was. It’s like when you have company and you make sure to clean the main areas, but your closets are a hot mess. Can I get an amen?
Only Jesus can clean our hearts and change us from the inside out.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (ESV)
When we truly understand grace and the love of God, we will no longer be satisfied with merely avoiding bad things. Jesus calls us to a life of abundance not avoidance. We don’t simply choose to do good things to avoid shame or for the external perception of holiness but because we have been made holy by the blood of Jesus. His love compels us to pursue His goodness and extend His grace to others.Leave a Comment