We've often run to pretending, to covering ourselves with religion or the fig leaf of appearing good. It was the biggest fight Christ picked, and yet it is still our biggest problem. We think we can appear okay…okay to God and to each other, and that if we construct really pretty coverings out of our leaves, no one will know.
But God is clear. The state of our invisible hearts takes precedence over all the good behavior, over all the bad. From Adam and Eve to the churches described in Revelation, God addresses the inner parts of man. This is what he takes issue with the most.
This took a long time for me to learn because everything in our world works in opposition to this idea. We judge children on their behavior or performance from the time they are born. "Oh, what a good baby," we say. "She is so quiet and eats so well." We issue good grades for good work come kindergarten. We give our kids time-outs when they are bad and a star on their charts when they are good. Then we become adults and we get promotions or awards based on our good performance.
People just flat-out like us better if we are…good.
Everything in this life seems to hinge on our external behavior. Being good matters. Quite honestly, it is all we have to go on. We don't, for the most part, work with the invisible space of souls and thoughts and motives and feelings. They're so abstract and immeasurable. And then God showed up in the flesh. Christ appeared and turned our system of being good on its head.
When Jesus came, he went to the most broken, the least good. In fact, it was always the most sinful he ministered to. He touched them and healed them and loved them, and they loved him back. They needed him.
I remember the first time it occurred to me that my life looked more like the lives of the people Jesus rebuked than the people Jesus drew near to. I was reading his words to the religious in Matthew, "So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (23:28).
Ugh. I felt that way. I knew deep down I was screwed up. I also knew nobody really knew it, and I liked it that way. I did not want to be face down in the sand like all the sinners Jesus healed. I wanted to stay bright and shiny and good, and comfortably on my feet. Yet when I read the words of Christ, I felt this call. A call to fall on my face.
It physically hurts to see our pride, to see our sin, to quit playing good, to feel broken and to need God. And it hurts even more to let others see it. So we run from falling; we choose large fig leaves to cover up with and not God. We run from that vulnerable feeling that we may not measure up, all while aching to measure up.