Fast forward to the day of the event as neighbors were saying goodbye, the tables were wiped down and the floors mopped, I walked into the kitchen to see all 14 of the youth happily engaged in an activity on the center island. They had taken the freshly washed pots and pans and built a little human. It was extremely creative, they had pot handles for arms, they added an apron, and used a colander for a hat. They even taped a little sign to its chest, “Welcome to our church!” It was adorable. Even greater though, was this group of kids working together to invite people in - to actually welcome people to the church. We finally shut off the lights and I didn’t think much more about it until I arrived at church the following day. There was a note in my box, hastily written, “Those kids of yours didn’t bother to put the pots and pans away!” For a brief moment, I was amused. I mean, come on, really? Then I turned downright angry. This individual completely missed the Christian message that was staring him/her in the face – had it been a snake, he/she would have been bit!
And this is exactly why Jesus got hot and bothered when working with his disciples. One such story (Mark 7) centers around Jesus and his disciples after a long day of teaching and healing the crowds of people that gathered to see what Jesus was all about. The group is catching a break, sitting down, probably rehashing the days’ events when the pharisees and scribes, clothed in righteousness, come and watch as the disciples begin to eat, without first washing their hands (heaven forbid!). The pharisees and scribes were appalled and asked of Jesus, “Why would your people not wash their hands before they eat?”
To be fair, there was a law of purification that required you to thoroughly wash before touching food and eating it. But here’s the truth about the disciples: They sacrificed a great deal to follow Jesus. They had little-to-no warning, just a, “Hey, come and follow me.” The disciples dropped everything, left their families, quit their jobs, and some even lost their social status in the community. Then along comes a group of righteous leaders complaining that they grabbed some food with their dirty hands and popped it in their mouths. Perhaps there were more important things the pharisees and scribes could have concerned themselves with, you know, like the needs of the people the disciples were working hard to heal? There’s an idea!
And so it goes in our world today. We see someone with dirty clothes and immediately judge them as careless without ever stopping to think that they likely just put in a hard day of labor.
We overhear a mom being impatient with her children and we shake our heads without ever considering what that parent might be dealing with. We see a teenager on a cell phone and we roll our eyes and label them oblivious before ever assuming that they just might be navigating this complex world with extraordinary help of technology. We see a refugee and assume they are abusing the system and crossing our border illegally without ever wondering about the circumstances that caused them to flee in the first place. We see a young college student walking into Planned Parenthood and we cast them off as an immoral individual that would abort their child without ever considering that Planned Parenthood is the only place they can go for affordable contraceptives and women’s healthcare. We see a public display of affection between a same-sex couple and we stare in disbelief before ever giving thanks that two people have each found someone to love. We are masters at pointing out what we believe everyone else is doing wrong, I’m not sure if it makes us feel better about ourselves, or what… but we aren’t focusing on the things that matter.
Jesus made it clear in all four gospels. It’s our hardened hearts that defile us. It’s our negative assumptions that make us unclean. It’s our nasty judgements that are impure. What causes great harm to the world in which we live is our desire to be better than everyone else.