Inside, Outside, Upside Down Christianity

By | Fri 29 Jun 2018 9:30 EDT Expand | Collapse

In college I remember writing a poem that began by paraphrasing those words from the famous children‘s book by Dr. Seuss. “Inside, outside, the whole world is upside down.” At the time I was attending a Christian university in the middle of the Bible belt South, and more often than not, what I saw was Christianity focused on outward issues.

In a way it made sense, I guess. The Christian university would have had a hard time dictating that we all put others first, have loving, intimate relationships with Christ, hear His voice and walk according to the moment by moment leading of the Holy Spirit.

It was much easier to say you had to wear skirts every day that came to the tops of your knees. For the guys it was daily ties, short hair, and no earrings or beards. There were rules about swearing and alcohol and mandatory church attendance. We had a student honor code and dress code and dorm rules. The rules went on and on and they were all focused on who we were on the outside and the sort of impression we gave the community and the all-important donors.

Now there‘s not anything wrong with any of those rules in and of themselves, although few had anything to do with actual Biblical principles. I‘m sure they were all designed to make us disciplined individuals and productive people, but rules were not going to lead us one iota closer to Christ. In fact, in a lot of cases, the severity of the rules caused people to rebel.

I was raised to have great respect for rules and authority, and I do. There were basically three responses to those excessive rules in college: students who didn‘t mind them and followed them, students who ignored them and didn‘t care, and students who were in constant angst, feeling that the rules were ridiculous and unfair, but who wanted to honor God by following the rules. In other words students who wanted to live from the inside out. In other words, me.

Today, my own children are young adults. And I haven‘t raised them with upside down Christianity that focuses on outward standards. I‘ve raised them to live as I long to live, from the inside out.

Outside-in Christianity is a result of focusing on the law. In the Old Testament God gave us laws because Christ had not yet died on the cross for us. The Ten Commandments are great and all, but did you ever stop to consider that there weren‘t just ten, there were hundreds? If you want to live by the law, shouldn‘t you follow them all? The law brings death. Jesus brings life. We are now living under a new covenant. A covenant with principles, not laws. A covenant where God calls us to a higher standard and demands our very hearts.

* I wanted to insert a scripture here, but I pretty much needed to quote at least one gospel and most of Paul‘s epistles. So, you know what, just re-read the whole New Testament.

Did you ever stop to consider that for several thousand years of mankind‘s history there was no law? God judged by the heart for at least 2,500 years. Only for the last 1,500 or so years before Jesus did we have the law. The law was revealed so that man would understand how far we lived from God‘s standard of holiness, and that we could never, ever, meet God‘s expectations on our own. We needed a savior.

And He sent one, who died on the cross to redeem us from our sin and reconcile us to Himself. He now wants us to live by basic principles. The law of love. The fruit of the spirit. We need to know His word, yes. Absolutely. Not because we need to reach our daily quota of Bible reading, but because God renews our mind through His word. Because God reveals his character in His word, and we need to know Him as a best friend. We need to pray, yes. Because how can you be intimate with someone you don‘t communicate with? We need to be in church, yes. Because we need the fellowship of other believers to help us grow in our walk with the Lord. Because we are one body in Christ, and we need to function together to reach out to a hurt and dying world. We need to live a holy life, yes. Because it pleases God and keeps Satan from getting entrance into our lives.

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But living a holy life goes much further than keeping the Ten Commandments. (Read those epistles one more time please. Seriously, it will be good for you.) It involves dying to self, putting others first, extending love to the world around us. No more gossip or gluttony or lust. No more worry or condemnation–bitterness, despair, or low self-esteem. We are God‘s children. His heirs. A royal priesthood. His ambassadors to the world.

But we‘ll never get there on our own.

We‘re going to fall short. God is well aware of that. That was His whole point in sending a Savior. It‘s almost as if the outside-in people act like Christ saved them once, and it‘s been their job to save themselves every day since.

That simply is not what the Bible says. Anywhere. God wants our hearts. A much higher standard than the law. He‘s not out to zap us. He has paid the price to secure our eternal destiny. He wants relationship with us that flows from the inside out.

Just think about it, Christianity that flows from the outside in (if such a thing can even truly exist) would get stuck there. On the inside. No wonder these upside-down, outside-in Christians have such little impact on the world. Christianity from the inside out flows, well, outward. Like a river of living water to quench the needs of a hurt and dying generation. Christianity from the inside out releases God‘s kingdom from deep within our hearts to everyone we encounter.

So no more upside down Christianity. Let‘s live from the inside out.

Dina Sleiman writes stories of passion and grace. By day this wife and mother of three nearly grown children utilizes her writing gifts with worldwide humanitarian organization Operation Blessing. She won the Carol Award from the American Christian Fiction Writers in 2016 for her cross-over YA novel, Dauntless. Check out Dina‘s many titles on or visit her website for more info. Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.
CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).


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