(Matthew 15: 15-16) 15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.” 16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”
Jesus came to bring freedom…freedom from sin, and yes, freedom from the legalism of the past. The life and death of Christ, though not easy or simple in any way, took place so that our faith could be simplified and our redemption more accessible.
In his ministry, Jesus told many parables and gave even more examples of and metaphors for the moral situations we face in life. He was a gifted teacher…a relatable source of God’s own mind and heart…and through His words we find that a life of faithfulness and righteousness is attained through living out one word: love.
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
It isn’t about rules…what foods are bad, when to wash your hands, whether or not you should shave your beard or get a tattoo…rather, it is a matter of the heart. In all things, the condition of the heart is what governs our choices and actions.
I teach children at church, so I spend a lot of time finding ways to make scripture easy for them to relate to their lives, and I have found that the thing that I say to them most is that it all comes back to love. Is it hard to memorize a bunch of laws? Sure it is! Is it hard to remember to love others? Nope. Well, it certainly shouldn’t be hard to remember that. Sure, it’s hard to do at times, but we all know that it’s what we are supposed to do. Right?
Think about the ten commandments: would you commit any of them if you are loving God first and others next (above yourself)? Noooo. Many times we try to trick ourselves and justify things we are doing that are contrary to the truth…things that don’t reflect God’s love. When we are not reflecting His love, we are rejecting Him, because His very existence is just that…love.
7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. (1 John 4: 7-12)
Because of Jesus, the very embodiment of love…because He came that we might have abundant life…because He died to free us…we don’t have to hem and haw over every detail of our lives wondering, “Is this wrong? Am I sinning?” It’s basic really. Ask yourself, “Is this loving? Is this kind?” If the answer is no…well, don’t chance it. The acronym that was so famous in the 90’s might be corny but it’s always applicable to EVERY situation: WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)? The answer is: Jesus would love.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to keep a watch over my heart and what I allow to occupy its space. Fill me with Your love, so that I am walking and living a righteous and faithful life, reflecting and magnifying You in all that I do.