Jesus then called the people to him again and said to them,
Listen to me, all of you, and try to understand. Nothing that enters a person from the outside can make that person unclean. It is what comes from within that makes a person unclean. Let everyone who has ears listen.
When Jesus got home and was away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this saying, and he replied,
So even you are dull? Do you not see that whatever comes from outside cannot make a person unclean, since it enters not the heart but the stomach, and is finally passed out?
Thus Jesus declared that all foods are clean. And he went on,
What comes out of a person is what defiles him, for evil designs come out of the heart: theft, murder, adultery, jealousy, greed, maliciousness, deceit, indecency, slander, pride and folly. All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.
We are confronted again with the question of evil. Questions like, why does evil exist or how can evil be eliminated from our lives, continue to beg for satisfactory answers. The Jews in Jesus’ time believed that evil comes from outside and that even what they eat if unclean can make one impure. Jesus dealt with this issue in responding to the religious leaders’ concern with ritual defilement, which would render a person unsuitable to worship God. They were under the illusion that on the inside they were good and godly. This narrow-minded interpretation totally missed the bigger picture about human nature. Sin is not only an external problem, even if we live in a world of injustice and pain. Our tendency towards evil resides deep within us. This is aggravated by external influences impinging on our conscience development. True religion is not only concerned with actions but also motivations, not just rituals but also spirituality. The problem with evil is that it is often rationalized, unrecognized or hidden behind thick crusts of cultural conditioning. It takes grace to have the courage to look inside ourselves and face the sinful tendencies that reside in our wounded, unbelieving and hardened hearts.
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