Proper 17b, September 2, 2012
Honoring our God with our lips but having a heart far from God is a horrible place to be because the façade of being clean on the outside and the dirtiness on the inside is painful.
My worship of God is empty when it is just outward demonstrations for others to see. Sure others will see the motions and expect that there is a pious heart on the inside to match those outward motions, but inside I know the truth. More importantly God knows the truth of my hypocrisy. The question of clean and unclean is so much more than about outward motions because my ultimate eternity with God is not going to be secured by any illusions.
The conversation about what is clean and unclean gets me thinking about what is evil, what is not, and how I address this reality in the church, the world, and in my own life.
I could spend my time controlling what I taste, touch or watch but in the end I have a sinful heart that is very adept at turning very benign items into objects of temptation.
The dirtiness of sin is not a problem of what I touch, taste or watch. I may try to point out evil in the things of this world but this is in tension with my belief that God has made all things for a good purpose. He did declare on each day of creation, “This is good.” I believe I live in an amazing world with God’s handiwork surrounding us.
I don’t spin my wheels trying to change what I taste, touch or watch but instead I change why. This movement creates the opportunity for me to change what causes me to sin to become a way to share joy.
In some cultures the woman’s body is completely hidden because of the fear that she would become the cause of a man to know lust in his heart. The idea is also that the woman even in public venues remains private for only her family to truly see her. She is expected to live no public identity. But the cause of the man’s sinfulness is not the public life of a woman but the very sinful heart of the man. The woman is not evil or unclean. The man and his heart is the source of sin. All evil comes from within.
Reform of the lips or what the eyes see or what the hands touch is empty of transformation. An attack against evil is not found in cleansing the world of that which causes temptation.
I could look around and get angry at all the temptations to sin that surround me, but this will not bring change to my dirty sinful heart.
I could try to filter all that I allow myself to see, hear, touch or taste, but I don’t think this will quiet the desires of my sinful self.
It would be wonderful to eliminate evil in our church, our world and ourselves. But this elimination of evil is vanity if it only works on the outward stuff.
Jesus did not come to remove the temptations to sin from this world. He came to clean our sinful hearts. He comes to clean our sinful hearts through a lavish washing away of sin. We do not change what we put into our bodies to live transformed lives. We change our hearts by repenting of our sinful self and trusting Jesus to be our living and beating hearts.