…“You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!”
– Mark 7:9
That’s quite the scripture to contemplate, isn’t it?
I have often wrestled with what it means to live my life as a follower of Christ. I have tossed and turned over what it means to be truly faithful and righteous as a believer. I have had to contend over the years with all sorts of cultural, hermeneutic and theological issues as I pursue and discover what it means to be an upstanding man of God.
In the first half of Mark 7, Jesus encounters some pharisees who, in their own pious tradition, have chosen to critique and judge the eating practices of those closest to Jesus. The tone is undeniable. Jesus’ disciples, in the eyes of the pharisees, are not Godly individuals.
To the pharisees, faithfulness looks like ticking the boxes that satisfy God and ultimately earn His favour. If God’s favour seemingly did not come, the pharisees answer was simple; Turn up the volume and intensity of ritual in your daily practices. This behaviour misses the purpose of God’s commandments altogether. The commandments were God’s way of drawing people nearer to Him and revealing Himself to the world. Not a way for individuals to secure His favour for themselves.
What Jesus observes in the pharisees is a way of life that, despite their intention, inadvertently draws them further away from God because, in their desire to earn favour with God, they become self-righteous. What Jesus observes is pride.
It quickly becomes evident in the story that Jesus views faithfulness as something far more profound than a series of actions, traditions or learned behaviours – He sees it as something that flows from the heart. It is not our actions or rituals that shape our hearts, but our hearts that shape our actions and rituals. Jesus suggests that it is only from a place of humility, submission and grace that our actions begin to take on a Godly meaningfulness.
Christian philosopher Peter Rollins states that one of the mistakes we make in church is to interpret the word “orthodoxy” to “right belief” (in latin “ortho” = “right” and “doxy” = “belief”). Rollins insists that the word was intended to be read the other way around – as “believing in the right way.” In other words there is a posture shift that must take place. A paradigm shift of faith from “what is the right thing to do?” to “how is the right way to be“
My quest today then is to check my heart, and make myself available once again to Christ. I long to orient myself towards Him and invite Him to shape the desires and dreams in my heart that I could not fathom myself. And I pray He would reveal how I can best live those out, helping me to live in a way that brings glory and honour and attention to Him, in a way that would not happen if I simply just did a bunch of things that ultimately made me look godly, but actually weren’t about God at all.
I hope you would join me on a similar quest this day.
God bless you as you discover the richness of faithfulness that comes from the heart.