By: Raymond Harris
Note to the Reader
We are continuing our examination of the Gospel of Mark. As such, I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Gospel in conjunction with this article.
In a World of Darkness
Take a look around the world seems to be in chaos and it is not limited to international turmoil. Within our own locality we find crime, turmoil, and heartache. In a world that seems upside, how does a disciple keep their own heart clean.
A disciple can feel that they have to go through too much in order to keep themselves pure. One choice is to turn off the television, turn off the radio, and turn off the connection to the Internet. Another is for a disciple to use third-party devices to use filter the Internet and to filter television programs and even purchase commercially approved edited music. Sometimes, it seems that a disciple has to go to great lengths in order to reduce the muck that seems to surround us. When any disciple does this, it seems to reflect the disciple’s personal attempt to reach the goal of keeping one’s self unspotted from the world.1
It can be a great concern for a disciple seeing the world and wondering what they are to do. When Jesus taught his disciples in Mark Chapter Seven he wanted them to understand that the exterior is not truly what defines defiled; instead it is what is defiled on the inside. He seems to submit to his disciples that what happens on the inside of the disciple is far more important than what happens to the disciple from the exterior. Consider what Jesus said:
“Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
“That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”2
It that passage from Mark, Jesus did not focus on the reality of the exterior, he turned the discussion to the inside. It is impossible to remove all offensive material from our surrounding world. Now this should not permit disciples to allow the exterior problems to remain uninvolved, because a disciple should be involved and proactive for a better world. However, Jesus does not talk about correcting exterior behavior of others, he teaches that the disciple needs to be clean on the interior. This is reminiscent of Jesus speaking about judging others and that to properly assess anything the disciple needs to begin with their own person; examining themselves and solving their own problems.3
However, there is the realty that disciples do need to protect themselves. The world is an insidious place that assaults the senses and affects disciples in ways that we probably are only beginning to understand. Continued exposure and over exposure definitely heightens the risk that will result in disciples harming themselves. Consider the Sun. Even though the Sun is a ball of fire, where we live the Sun is not really a dangerous thing; in fact all life on Earth needs the Sun in order to survive. Yet even though the Sun is necessary for Earth life and the survival of all kinds of life, it can cause permanent damage resulting in cancer. If the Sun, a beneficial part of life given by God Himself, can eventually result in something detrimental, then think about how risky it is to over extended one’s exposure to the spiritual forces of darkness.
Being aware that the world around us can continue on it is own devices in no way provides a license for any disciple to behave in an unseemly manner. Paul seems to affirm this by claiming that just because God’s grace is more powerful than sin in no way gives permission to the Christian to behave sinfully.4 In order to live faithfully, the disciple has to protect their heart, their mind, their spirit, and their actions; but in so doing we can realize that the world around us does not make us unclean. According to Jesus purity and impurity is defined by what comes from the person’s interior to the person’s exterior. May the LORD bless us as we seek to be more pure on the inside.
1. “Unspotted from the world.” James 1.27.
2. “Jesus discussion with his disciples.” Mark 7.18-23, KJV.
3. “The disciple is to begin with themselves.” Matthew 7.1-5.
4. “No permission to sin.” Romans 6.1-2.