I am a bit of a germaphobe. I refuse to eat or drink after someone. I at times open doors with my sleeve. And of course double dipping? That is close to the unpardonable sin for me. As a result I have grown to love and appreciate hand sanitizer. It is the solution to the dilemma every germaphobe faces when he cannot wash his hands. In Mark 7 we read of others who at first glance seem to have shared my love for having clean hands.
A group of scribes and Pharisees approach Jesus and ask Him why His disciples do not wash their hands before they eat. Unlike me, these men are not concerned about clean hands from a hygienic perspective. This is a ritual or spiritual purity they are referencing. The idea of the ceremonial washing of hands was initially intended just for the priests. But over time various Jewish religious leaders began to require others to perform these and other actions of ceremonial washing for other Jews as well.
Jesus responds by calling out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. They are more concerned with their traditions than with the actual Word of God. They have elevated their teachings to be on par with that of Scripture. A dangerous thing to do.
But then Jesus comes back and addresses the idea of what really makes a person clean or unclean. He declares that nothing that a person eats can defile him or her in a spiritual sense. Mark notes that this effectively made all foods available to now be eaten (bacon is now on the menu). But then Jesus makes a perplexing statement. He says that it is what comes out of a person that actually defiles them.
Our defilement does not originate with what we do or do not do. We are born defiled. We enter this world spiritually dead and separated from God because of our sinful nature. As a result there is no amount of religious actions we can do to make our defiled hearts pure. There is no outward work that can transform us internally. We need to be changed from the inside out.
And that is the good news of the gospel. As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” The gospel transforms us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and follow Him as His disciple.
And then, an amazing thing takes place. We begin to bear fruit. Good things are produced from our lives. Not in an effort to earn our salvation or gain purity. Instead these are the result and evidence of our salvation. As we continue to abide in Christ, Jesus bears fruit in and through us.
But let us also remember that it is still important to guard what we put into our bodies. When we expose ourselves to things that do not honor or glorify God it will have an effect on our relationship with God. Therefore, we must be careful to seek to live a life if purity in what we say, do, and think.