Filthiness is Next To Godliness (Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Exclusion and condemnation themselves are the sins of the human heart that Jesus warns us to guard against.


“For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come… and they defile a person.”

Some pharisees and scribes are wondering why Jesus’s disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat. Jesus scolds them for teaching “human precepts as doctrines” and then explains that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile, but the evil that defiles comes from the human heart.

Is Jesus anti-hygiene? More like, Jesus is anti-exclusion and anti-judgmentalism. He doesn’t want us to make judgments of who is in and who is out. He doesn’t want us look at our fellow human beings with disgust just because they may be unwashed. Jesus wants us to truly love everyone, particularly the vulnerable not just in theory but in the full reality of dirt and sweat and smell. 

When we make judgments about who is “clean” versus who is “unclean,” who is “righteous” and who is “sinful” based on rituals and purity standards, we forget that the incarnation broke every purity rule imaginable. Cleanliness is good and healthy, but is it really next to Godliness? God was born in a barn! God was born among the dirt and sweat and filth of humanity and all creation. God continues to be in solidarity with the vulnerable, the poor, the marginalized. And we can’t follow God unless we’re willing to get our hands dirty!

But we also need to be humble enough to remember that every human community has rituals and traditions, including ourselves. Sometimes people interpret this text as anti-ritual and anti-Jewish, thinking that Jesus came to get rid of rituals. But rituals are part of human life, both religious and secular. The point is not anti-ritual, it’s anti-exclusion and judgment. 

Exclusion and condemnation themselves are the sins of the human heart that Jesus warns us to guard against. When we judge who is “in” or “out” based on conformity to our standards, we devalue and dehumanize others. Every sin of Jesus mentions — murder, licentiousness, avarice, envy, etc. — starts with forgetting the humanity of the “other” with whom we interact. 

Thus, this a call to humility, to refrain from judgment, and to reorient ourselves from “calling out” to “calling in.”

Adam, Lindsey, and friends discuss these verses as they apply to the pandemic today. Even with the real risk of Covid 19 for ourselves and others, how is Jesus calling us to remember the humanity and image of God in those who are skeptical or reluctant when it comes to masks and vaccinations? This is a difficult conundrum, because the call to form condemnation is clear, but exactly how to lovingly persuade may not be so obvious. We ponder and pray on the issue.

The Olive

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