2 September 2012Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
"For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly." (vv. 21-22)
I have never tired counting the number of times that the Gospels record religious people criticising Jesus, nor how often they try to catch him out. However, I never tire of reading his responses. It is like watching an extremely accomplished albeit rather unusual (to say the least) political comedian turning the tables on politicians and catching them out in their hypocrisy.
The problem is that in enjoying their discomfort we miss, in today's passage, two stereotypes of Christians (and of us) that are commonly held in our in society.
The first stereotype is that Christians are anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish). To our disgrace, over the last 2,000 years, Christians have a poor track record in this regard. We have a long history of enjoying the discomfort of the Jewish religious groups at the hands of Jesus and thus justifying appalling behaviour towards Jews.
The second stereotype is a complete role reversal from the first. I suggest that there is a common perception in our society that Christians cling to tradition while enjoying criticising others. In other words, our behaviour is seen by others as being hypocritical and like the people attacking Jesus for the behaviour of his disciples in this text.
It is, of course, a fairly typical reaction to want to see ourselves in the right and others in the wrong, and we may feel that both stereotypes are nothing like the way we behave. However, the problem with stereotypes is that they are very difficult to change.
The words of Jesus suggest an alternative. Instead of trying to change stereotypical ways others see us, let us consider how we need to change what is inside us and how that comes out. Jesus appears to think that is more important, so maybe we should too! At the end of the day if a popular stereotype of Christians is too different to reality for most people then it will be dropped.
- In what ways do you see yourself or the Church reinforcing stereotypes?
- Look back on the last few days and the times when you have noted the sorts of behaviour Jesus refers to in verses 21-22. Reflect on the balance between the times you see these challenges in yourself or in others.
- What helps or hinders you in tackling the evil intentions coming from your heart that Jesus describes?
Bible notes author