Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Are We Serving Christ or Our Own Set of Rules?

"It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles" (Matthew 15:11).

We get so hung up on externals, just like the Pharisees. We're often hard on the Pharisees when we read the Gospels, but the truth is, we're very much like them. We all have our lists of what is acceptable and unacceptable—what we should eat, what we should drink, how to dress for worship, what kind of music is acceptable and approved for worship, what kinds of friends we should have and who we should hang around with...we get so wrapped up in all these things that we miss what Jesus really calls us to. Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus call us to judge others by externals. Jesus is concerned with something deeper: the heart.

Take, for example, the issue of food. That was one of the Pharisees' main concerns, and in this passage in Matthew 15, Jesus is taking them head on about that. The Pharisees were concerned about eating the right sorts of things, the allowed sorts of things and doing it in such a way that they weren't "defiled." But Jesus tells them that the real issue isn't what goes into the mouth, but what comes out of it. When the disciples question him, he says (and I'm paraphrasing here), "What you eat doesn't stay in you long. It goes in and comes back out. The stuff in the stomach isn't so important as the stuff in the heart. It's out of the heart that evil intentions, false witness, slander, even murder and adultery, come. Pay more attention to the condition of your heart than what's on the dinner plate."

We still practice the error of the Pharisees. We judge others by the externals, good and bad, whether they follow our lists of rules or not, and have little interest in their heart. Maybe the place to start in changing that is to look at our own heart and see what condition it is in. Are we serving Christ or our own set of rules?

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