Reading the news headlines these days gives me a sensation that I’m drowning and can’t find something to grab onto to pull me out of the waters. That sounds overly dramatic, I realize. But the truth is that the varying opinions represented in reporting don’t lead me to firm convictions. Instead, the issues confronting our nation and the church become muddied in conflicting terms, labels and sides.
Yesterday our Lead Pastor shared the needed message that Love Listens. In order to make sense of the pain we know exists in this world, we need to take our cues from Jesus Christ and the Word He has given us. Only God’s Word makes sense of the world and all our problems. God’s Word is solid, and it’s the thing that helps pull me and you out of the waters of culture.
This week on the blog I will focus on terms that appear in the news and in culture and seek out the scriptures to help us gain biblically clarity, especially on the issue of racism in the United States. By doing this I know we will not marginalize the problems in our country but instead expose them with God’s light and truth so we can deal with what we find in the clear exposure of the Bible.
Jesus spoke to people with a muddied understanding of the world all the time. In Mark 7 Jesus spoke to the confusion caused by the Pharisees and their misrepresentation of God and His standards. In Mark 7:14–23 Jesus told a parable and applied it for the benefit of His confused disciples [words emphasized in bold by me]: And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand:  There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”  And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable.  And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him,  since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.  For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,  coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (ESV)
The controversy in this passage was what counted as unclean and therefore defiling for the people of God. Jesus says here that foods do not defile. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you but what is already present in your sinful heart.
Jesus says in verse 14 “Hear me, all of you, and understand,” and that is a biblical evidence of what Pastor Sam shared yesterday: we must position ourselves to be discipled by Jesus Christ. When Jesus emphasizes the need to hear, we need to listen up!
Jesus responds to His disciples in verse 18 with “Are you also without understanding?” This reminds me that being a Christ-follower does not mean I automatically connect all the dots and have proper insight into the controversies in front of me.
Jesus teaches that the controversies around us take backstage to the true conflict inside of us. The true problem we face today is the problem of the heart. In verse 21 Jesus lists several heart-issued sins that result in outward defilement. Today we need to see the first sin on that list: evil thoughts. All of our problems begin in the heart, stew in our evil thinking and then result on the outside with defilement. I’ve seen this past week how the evil we call racism begins in the heart and is more accurately called evil thoughts. These evil thoughts include any opinions held that support the divide of people based on the color of their skin.
Let’s be careful that we not get overwhelmed by the flood of terms confronting us today. On the one hand, is there racism around the world and particularly in the United States? Yes. Is racism the main trouble that we have? No. The deeper issue is the evil thoughts that come from hearts that want to sin. Evil thoughts that end up in racist opinions and words are defiling. We all have them as part of the indwelling sin that we deal with. Our hope is that Jesus will continue to boldly expose evil thoughts within us, help us to confess them and to cleanse us as we seek to listen to Him and listen to others.