Wednesday, April 25th. Mark 7:14-23

Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’  Mark 7:14-23

For most of its history, the college I attended did not allow dances on campus.  Steeped in a certain kind of holiness code piety, and well aware that they were entrusted with the care of young people, the thinking fell somewhere along the lines of “if we let them rub their bodies together vertically it isn’t a far fall before they are doing it horizontally.”

Or something like that.

Do we then believe that those students didn’t dance at all?  Of course not.  This is America and few laws hold more power in our lives than the law of supply and demand.  So they found other places to dance and a new kind of balance ensued.

“Out of sight and out of mind” isn’t all that far from “don’t ask, don’t tell” which is finally related to “peek-a-boo”, one of the earliest games we teach our children.

So who were they fooling?  I don’t know.  Dancing was allowed by the time I attended but we didn’t have many dances.  I never attended one.  There were plenty of other places around town that were more fun.  The campus could keep its holiness code in place and the students lived life as they pleased.

Such is the problem with external expectations for religious behavior.  Ritual rules can foster compliance, even cooperation, but there is no direct correlation or connection to our hearts, our wills, our desires, or our stubbornness.  At the end of the day we will largely do what we want to do and little will stop us if we don’t want to be stopped.  This is the human condition.  For better or worse.  Mostly worse.

If confronted, we usually fall back on either “but everybody’s doing it” or “but it isn’t hurting anybody.”  Interesting alternatives, aren’t they?  The loss of individualism or the victory of individualism.  Both of these are really beside the point.

In reality, individualism is a construct we impose on the world.  It isn’t the way the world really works.  In reality, this world in which we live, the one God is constantly creating, is founded on relationships, on interconnectedness, interdependence.  Everything is connected to everything else.  Hurtful behaviors always hurt someone.


Each of the evil intentions that Jesus identifies as coming “out of us” cause relational pain, they all hurt someone, including ourselves.  A religious restriction against eating pork is no more irrelevant than a rule against dancing.  We don’t need compliance, we need conversion.

Conversion of our hearts and minds and bodies and wills brings us toward a new place where we can connect God’s best intentions with how we live our lives and how we impact other people.  I say “toward” because I don’t know that we get there on this side of the grave.  It is a journey, a process, a different way of being, rooted in a different kind of relationship to God, self and others.

Let us pray:  Dear Lord, we pay a lot of attention to what other people say and do, and we often worry about what others see us say and do.  We know very well that most of the difficulties of our lives flow forth from the inside out.  Draw us near to you, that we might see ourselves more clearly, that love might make room for our neighbor and that we might learn to live in peace.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


One Response to “Wednesday, April 25th. Mark 7:14-23”

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