“Nothing can hurt you except sin; nothing can grieve me except sin; nothing can defeat you except sin. Therefore, be on your guard……… - John Bunyan: (1628 –1688: was an English writer and Baptist preacher best remembered as the author of the Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress)
Gospel Text: (MK 7:14-23)
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
"Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile."
When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
"Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?"
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
"But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile."
Goodness emerges from a person – from within. It is not a product of what is absorbed in the sense that external forces and concerns do not make a person ‘unclean’ or necessarily good. We choose between these poles and this is a constant throughout life.
And notice too, Jesus does not concern himself (nor does he allow people to be distracted by or satisfied by any suggestion that sin or evil arises from minor or petty issues e.g. like the failure to wash one’s hands before eating). No, Jesus speaks of sin having its origins in deeper realities – those attitudes and tendencies that we choose to follow – that reside in our hearts and that can do great harm to others or to ourselves.