If we have been afraid to look in the mirror, Jesus holds it up for us regardless. The litany of sins in Mark 7:21-22 should make us shudder—not because they are so bad but because they are so normal in our world and, sadly, within ourselves. We may start off reading them and feel fine. After all, we’re not murderers or thieves or adulterers—at least, most of us reading this are not. But as the list goes on, we start to squirm a bit. Jesus won’t let us just take a glance and forget who we are. It’s vital that we see ourselves for who we might be and what is truly possible within us. Greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly—each of us could pick at least one thing from this list and give an example of when this has manifested in our lives. It’s not pretty, and it doesn’t feel good to acknowledge. And yet, though it is not Jesus’ aim to shame or condemn us, it does seem important that we understand the power inherent in our hearts to breed such harm against others and ultimately ourselves.
The saying “knowledge is power” applies here. Once we know and accept what we are capable of, we can begin to dwell on what else is possible. The heart can also breed love and kindness, joy, gentleness, peace, goodness, faithfulness, forbearance, and self-control. We have a say in what comes out of our hearts. But it requires knowing the word of God, dwelling on it, letting it take root in our hearts, feasting on it, nourishing it with our own words and actions. It is no good to simply read this list of sins and feel shame or contrition. The next step is to seek to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. And God has shown us how to do so—by submitting to God and bearing one another’s burdens, by encouraging one another in faith and with kindness and love, and by encouraging one another to good works and good living.
Holy Spirit, as I find the courage to see myself more fully, lead me to repentance; help me make daily choices that foster life. Amen.
The poetry of Song of Solomon is thick with romantic imagery, and most scholars agree that these lines mean what they say on the surface; they are written from the author to the beloved. Psalm 45 echoes the refrain of admiration and desire. Such desire is not wrong if it is awakened at the proper time, as the author of Song of Solomon says elsewhere. James argues that ethical living is done not in word but in deed. True religion is not putting on a show but displaying mercy and controlling the tongue. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes some of the religious leaders on this very account because they talk of obedience to God but do not live it out. What we say and what we do should match.
Read Song of Solomon 2:8-13. The narrative poetry of Song of Solomon invites us into scripture in a different way than other texts. How does God speak to you through this poetry?
Read Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9. How do your relationships honor the gift of love?
Read James 1:17-27. When do you find yourself as merely a “hearer” of the word and not a “doer”? What motivates you to act on God’s word?
Read Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. What human traditions or rituals do you tend to make too important?
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