He went on: ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.’ (Mark 7:20-23 NIVUK)
Rules won’t cut it
Our diminishing respect for one another as real God-infused human beings is expressed in the misuse of power, money and privilege. We respond by creating more rules for business, social interaction and against whatever troubles us. But what we need is inner character that lives respectfully and kindly toward others. No law will produce character.
If you are using one of the guides for prayer that follow the church calendar you have been meditating on Jesus’ early ministry in the Gospel of Mark. The rule makers of his day scrutinized his every move, blinded to the good he was doing. Their rules even led to justifying going contrary to the heart of his Father.
I was caught up short last week as one of Jesus’ confrontations led him to spit out a list of things with which I am all too familiar. He said it wasn’t external pressures that make us behave badly. Many of these things are actually helpful to success in many areas of our culture – and sadly I often employ them.
Even if I empty myself of any and all of these inner leanings, it is only half the game – I need an inner healthy presence to replace them. I turned to the Ambrose prayer below to express that longing for Jesus’ life and character to be mine.
A Prayer for Today
O Lord, who has mercy on all, take away from me my sins, and mercifully kindle in me the fire of your Holy Spirit. Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore you, a heart to delight in you, to follow and enjoy you, for Christ's sake.