I have heard many Christians say that we are to love God "from the inside-out". I know that I have used this phrase as well. I was thinking about this line today, and I asked myself, why? Why are we to love God from the inside out? what does that mean? The truth is, I have no clue what that means. when I think about it, there is lots of Christian lingo that I don't understand, and if we don't understand it, why should anyone else. One of my favorites is, I want to be "authentic" in my faith, or "real", but I don't know if I am sure what that means either. I think that some Christian's idea of being "real" or "authentic" is swearing when things are going bad, because they aren't hiding their "real" feelings (I still don't know if this is ever really necessary, although I confess to letting a word or two fly when friends of mine are really down in the crapper), or spilling their guts out by sharing personal struggles from behind the pulpit. This is all fine and well in the right place, pastors need to do that from time to time, but I would argue that emptying your personal baggage on your congregation is more self serving then "authentic" community building. But enough of this tangent, this blog isn't about christian lingo, I want to focus on loving God from the inside out and why I think this can be dangerous terminology. What are some of the possible ways in which this line could be read?
I have taken a couple personality tests this year, and one thing that both seem to say is that I often think more quickly with my heart then with my head. I tend to think that in the current Western Christian culture, we are very feeling based. Recognize that I don't have any hard core evidence to back this up, this is just what, from my observation, I would believe is the case. In any case, I know it is often true with me, and perhaps you can relate as well. This is why I find the term "loving from the inside out" bothersome. When we talk about inwardness, we relate it to feelings. When we think about loving from the inside out then, it is easy to think of love sprouting from feeling. When we love on the inside, we show it on the outside. But, I think that perhaps this is a backwards approach.
Sometimes I don't feel like loving others, and in those times, I most certainly don't want to act in love to others. But I believe we really, REALLY need to examine our Faith, Hope, Love, Joy, etc. apart from our feelings. I won't always want to love others, but through demonstrating love to them in my actions (outwards), I learn to love them (inside). I won't always feel like believing in God, or trusting in him, but if I choose to remain faithful and follow him (outward) despite my feelings, I will slowly learn to put my trust in Him and recognize that He has my best interest in mind (inward). I could choose to be joyful, in the mist of great sorrow, whether I'm feeling happy or not. I want to learn to love my neighbor and my God from the outside-in.