Sunday 30 August 2009

Bible Book:

"Then he called the crowd again and said to them, 'Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.'" (v.14-16)

Mark 7:1-23 Sunday 30 August 2009


There are many sections of the Bible in which the issuesdiscussed are almost identical to issues faced by readers today.Other sections are more difficult to understand, because they focuson issues which were clearly important in the culture of the time,but which seem less significant in many cultures today.

In this part of his Gospel, Mark describes some of the debatesconcerning ritual washing and what he describes as "the traditionof the elders". Clearly these were important matters of concern formany individuals and groups who Jesus encountered.

Jesus frequently challenged those concerned with debates like theone in today's passage to see beyond the superficial issues and tofocus instead on what really matters.

He did this in two ways:

  • He rebuked those who used the law of "Corban" (by which aperson dedicated their possessions to God) as a way of avoidingfamily responsibilities.
  • He reinterpreted the issue of cleanliness by speaking of how itis what comes out of a person which defiles them and not that whichgoes in.

This statement of Jesus immediately takes the issue ofthis debate from an unfamiliar culture into the reality of thecurrent reader's experience. We may not be familiar with culturalpractices of 1st century Palestine, but we know that the innerthoughts and priorities of an individual are so often revealed bythat person's words and actions.

Clearly, a person who is seeking to follow a lifestyle whichis shaped and guided by the teaching and power of Jesus will beconcerned not to be deflected from that pathway by becoming taintedby contact with those whose behaviour is inappropriate for afollower - but avoiding any contact with such people will leave theChristian with no opportunity for evangelism (sharing the good newsof Jesus with others).

The challenge is perhaps to be 'in the world but not of theworld' - but it is not always an easy path to follow. What is clearfrom Jesus' words however, is that if anyone fails to ensure thattheir own words and actions reflect the values of God, then theythemselves are defiled.


To Ponder

How can a follower of Jesus live a distinctivelifestyle without being dismissed as being unaware of the realityof other people's lives?

What are the particular challenges you face inyour own daily experience in of being 'in the world but not of theworld'?

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