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Let's worry about our own behavior

POSTED: May 16, 2018 5:48 a.m.

Most of us think of ourselves as relatively tough people, that we can take it as well as give it out. While I like to believe that about myself, I still remember greeting folks as they were leaving after a super sermon. One lady said, "That was a lot better than last week's." Talk about being taken down a peg or two!
I think back to the time I was growing up in West Virginia and listened to some of the political rhetoric between candidates. "Now I don't mean to say bad things about my opponent since we went to school together, but he just happens to be a bum, crook and slaps babies."
The other candidate might reply, "Yes, I know old Fred from class and that's why I must tell you that he drinks, smokes, cusses, is a commie and kicks puppy dogs."
To make the point, all this was not only the rule of the day, it was accepted and expected behavior. Very few West Virginians went to polite and orderly rallies.
In Matthew 15, some Scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus, "Why don't You and Your disciples wash Your hands before You eat?"
A fair question, because if anyone ate without first ritually washing, he would be eating unclean food and that would be a sin. Jesus just got a verbal slap in the face, and He returns the favor, "You hypocrites! Isaiah talked about people just like you. You teach one thing and turn around and do just the opposite!"
This was such an insult that His disciples took Him aside and said, "Do You realize that You just insulted these respectable men?"
I supposed they figured since Jesus was just a carpenter and an uneducated layman, He probably spoke out of ignorance. Perhaps His disciples were just trying to protect their usually kind and gentle leader.
Jesus responded to His disciples with a parable, and Simon replied, "I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about."
Jesus explained in a different way, "Whatever you eat passes through the body and is eliminated; however, what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, such as lying, slander and hurtful language. To eat before washing your hands may not be healthy, but to speak vile things in order to destroy someone's reputation or integrity is a sin!"
Our Lord clearly taught that personal honor and dignity was far more important than religious repetition, or as the Scribes and Pharisees believed, worshiping God meant to follow a myriad of rules dealing with cleanliness and uncleanliness.
Here's the rub. It's much easier to stay away from certain foods than to love the unlovable. It's much easier to wash one's hands than it is to help someone at the cost of your time and money. It is much easier to follow expected behavior to impress the crowd than it is to be involved with the poor, the needy and the forgotten.
I believe that life is too short to worry about following a list we hope will make God love us.
So, when we can free ourselves from the worry about our own personal worthiness, then we are free to minister to others. When we are free from the worry about our own salvation and leave that up to God, then we are free to love our neighbor.
God. Is it that simple? You love me for who and what I am? You love me for what I have become through the sacrifice of Jesus? I believe, Lord. Help me in my unbelief.
Thanks, God!

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