I’ve been thinking about fitting in. It’s an idea with which most of us can identify. We are people desperate to 'fit in', to belong. We go to great lengths (through the stuff we watch, the clothes we buy, and the things we do) in order to fit in. If you’ve ever been in a group of people talking about a latest movie or a trendy band you’ve never heard of, you have longed to fit in. If you’ve been around a bevy of bleary-eyed, neck-bent iPhone users blathering on about a technology you don’t get, you have wanted to be ‘on the inside.’
I’ve been thinking about fitting in because it’s come up as I’ve preached through the book of Mark. Mark doesn’t use ‘fitting in’ language, but he frequently mentions cleanliness and purity. When Mark talks about cleanliness, he’s describing what we know as 'fitting in'.
That’s why Jesus’ confrontation with his contemporaries over purity issues is poignant for us. Jesus dared tell the self-assured of his day that they defined fitting in improperly. They defined it from the outside in. Their lives spoke: “If we do the right things in our external life, if we look right, we will secure our spot within society and with God.”
Jesus exploded their assumed paradigm. He said that people could never 'fit in' on the basis of their self-modified behavior. Instead, Jesus said that 'fitting in' would come from the outside, from hearts transformed by the power of God. Jesus said people 'fit in' (first with God and then with others) when they are made right (that is, clean and pure) from the inside out.
The social ache we feel to 'fit in' will never be met by the right clothes, hip mastery of the arcane, owning an iPhone, or conversing knowingly about Vampire Weekend. Nor will it be met by mastering a set of shared moral behaviors or ethical practices. That ache to fit in with others itself signals a deeper ache—our longing to fit in with God, to belong to a heavenly Father, to be reconciled to our Maker. And the only remedy for that deep ache is faith in the One who brings us back to God by changing us from the inside out.