Clean or Unclean?

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ “

Mark 7:14-15

My grandmother lives near a beach.  We used to enjoy visiting her because we could go out and play in the sand, building sandcastles and streams, and all the things that children do on the beach.  Living in Britain, though, she also had a “rainy day” box of puzzles and games that we could play with if it was too wet too play outside.  This was a literal “rainy day” box.

For some reason, we also talk about putting something away for a rainy day, normally in the context of saving money, perhaps for if we should fall upon hard times.  My girlfriend, bless her, thought for a long time that this ‘putting something away for a rainy day’ was an action not dissimilar to my grandmother’s rainy day box; she would put money aside to go to the leisure centre when it was wet outside.  It wasn’t until she was in her twenties that she made the shocking discovery that she had been wrong all along, when she finally discovered that ‘putting something away for a rainy day’ actually meant saving!

Just as that was a revelation to my girlfriend, I think that in today’s passage, Jesus’ words were probably a revelation to those listening to him.  For years they had been very careful about not eating specific foods, unless it made them unclean.  Jesus had just been told off for allowing his disciples for eating with ‘unclean’ hands.  Previously he has been castigated for mixing with ‘unclean’ individuals.  Just as he often does, though, Jesus turns their understanding of what it is to be unclean on its head.  It’s not what goes into a person that makes them unclean, but what comes out of them – all the evil thoughts, words, and actions that humans involve themselves in.  It is what we do and say that really exposes the state of our heart and soul; it is these things that demonstrate whether we are simply honouring God with our lips, or if it is genuine, heartfelt worship that we offer him.

Reflect today on all the things that you do and say that might displease God.  The great thing about Jesus’ death on the cross is that if we truly repent all of these things, our sins, we will be forgiven, and will once again appear pure and blameless in his sight.

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