GOSPEL READING: Mark 7:14-23
14 And he called the people to him again, and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”
Meditation: Where does evil come from and how can we eliminate it from our personal lives? Jesus deals with this issue in response to the religious leaders’ concern with ritual defilement (uncleanness) – making oneself unfit to offer acceptable worship and sacrifice to God. The religious leaders were very concerned with avoiding ritual defilement, some no doubt out of reverent fear of God, and others because they wanted to be seen as observant Jews. Jesus points his listeners to the source of true defilement – evil desires which come from inside a person’s innermost being. Sin does not just happen from external forces. It first springs from the innermost recesses of our thoughts and intentions, from the secret desires which only the individual mind and heart can conceive.
God gives us his strength to resist sinful thoughts and desires
When Cain became jealous of his brother Abel, God warned him to guard his own heart: “Sin is couching at the door; it’s desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). Cain unfortunately did not take God’s warning to heart. He allowed his jealousy to grow into spite and hatred for his brother, and he began to look for an opportunity to eliminate his brother all together. When jealously and other sinful desires come knocking at the door of your heart, how do you respond? Do you entertain them and allow them to overtake you? Fortunately God does not leave us alone in our struggle with hurtful desires and sinful tendencies. He gives us the grace and strength we need to resist and overcome sin when it couches at the door of our heart.
God’s word has power to set us free to chose what is good and reject what is wrong
The Lord Jesus wants to set us free from the burden of guilt and from the destructive force of sin and wrong-doing in our personal lives. He wants to purify our hearts and renew our minds so we can freely choose to love and do what is right, good, just, and wise. The Lord Jesus is ready to change and purify our hearts through the grace and help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings sin into the light that we may recognize it for what it truly is and call upon his mercy and grace for pardon, healing, and restoration. The Spirit of truth is our Counselor and Helper. His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil. Do you believe in the power of God’s love to heal, change, and transform your heart and mind?
Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit and make my heart like yours. Strengthen my heart, mind, and my will that I may freely choose to love what is good and to reject what is evil.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.
39 The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
40 The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: The cycle of bitterness broken by forbearance, by Tertullian, 160-225 A.D.
“Let us, then, his servants, follow our Lord and patiently submit to denunciations that we may be blessed! If, with slight forbearance, I hear some bitter or evil remark directed against me, I may return it, and then I shall inevitably become bitter myself. Either that, or I shall be tormented by unexpressed resentment. If I retaliate when cursed, how shall I be found to have followed the teaching of our Lord? For his saying has been handed down that one is defiled not by unclean dishes but by the words which proceed from his mouth ( Mark 7:15).”(excerpt from ON PATIENCE 8)
[Tertullian (160-225 AD) was an early Christian writer and theologian from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He was a noted early Christian apologist who defended Christianity and the practice of Christians against the reproaches of the pagans. He promoted the principle of freedom of religion as an inalienable human right and demanded a fair trial for Christians before they were condemned to death.]