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February 23 I Sunday

Numbers 5-6

Mark 4:1-20

“But the voice spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’”   —Acts 10:15, NLT

 

Imagine we are at a high school cafeteria eating lunch with our friends. Suddenly, some cool kids show up and our friends start to withdraw from us, leaving us alone at the table. The reaction of our friends would most certainly not go unnoticed by us. This scenario is exactly what happened to the Gentiles who were dining with Peter in Antioch. We may think it is just a meal, but in the Ancient Near East, meal sharing was significant. It was a sign of peace, friendship, fraternity and trust. When Peter and his friends separated themselves from the Gentiles, whom they considered “unclean,” it showed that legalism had already taken root. It is like a weed that spreads into our lives and changes our hearts, our minds and how we treat others. Legalism not only breaks relationships but also breeds disunity.

The Gentiles were probably wondering, “Why is Peter distancing himself from us? What is this talk about clean and unclean? I thought Jesus made us all clean, are we not okay?” Peter and his friends were creating two classes of Christianity, where one group is “more clean” than the other, which leads to two different gospel messages being shared by the actions of Peter and his friends.

We may think that we are not like Peter and his friends but these things can settle into spaces and places that we may not be aware of. Legalism can grow in our hearts without us even knowing because it is pervasive in our lives and we live in a culture that perpetuates it. If we are honest with ourselves, some of us may have distanced ourselves from others, because they are racially different from us, because they believe different things and practice different social norms, because of economic and socioeconomic realities, because of differing personalities or simply because of image and clothing. The moment we judge others or create intentional distance between others and ourselves because of practices in their life that we deem “unclean,” we forget that we––in our hypocrisy––are no different.

When we separate ourselves from others, we are not only withdrawing from the people Jesus spent all His time with and but also from Jesus Himself––from the very heart of the gospel. As we remember and focus on the person of Christ, who gave Himself for us out of His love, we realize the gospel calls us to Spirit-led freedom. When we are not afraid of what others think when we associate with people different from us, we see that Christ is actually at work amongst the “unclean.” Who have we deemed “unclean” in our lives that we should consider reaching out to?

 

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that we are all made clean by You. Help me not only to be willing to associate with others different from me but also to share the gospel with them.


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