Monday, 2 February 2015
Mark 7: The Best Protection
Today’s post is from Meredith Bowman. Thanks Meredith!
Don’tcha just love the Pharisees? Whenever I read about them in Scripture I’m usually shaking my head at those poor clueless fellas. I often picture them in their long robes running around town, wagging their fingers in disapproval with their Scripture boxes stuck to their foreheads.
But this week was different. After studying them in Mark 7, they became less a side show at the circus and more a tangible warning of my own temptations.
Protecting the Law
This section unfolded slowly for me, beginning with “the traditions of the elders.” As Rondi quoted in the opening post, these traditions involved “building fences around the law.” Daniel C. Juster offers a helpful explanation:
“The basic thinking is as follows: We do not want to violate the Torah. If we create extra laws to protect the Torah, and we obey those extra laws, then we will not come close to disobeying the Torah.
…The Torah exhorts us to not boil a kid (a baby goat) in its mother’s milk. …To protect this law, Rabbis decided that eating milk and meat together, even if not from the same animal, should be avoided.
Once this was accepted, they determined that we needed to have hours of separation between meat meals and milk meals so that milk and meat will not be cooked together in our digestive system.
Once this was accepted, we were required to have separate dishes for milk and meat since there is a possibility that particles of meat or milk may be left on the plate and get mixed and eaten. In the case of Kashrut, a new fence is made for each new rabbinic law!”
This was an eye-opener for me. I started thinking about my own life and wondered if had I erected any fences. Yikes. I could see them all over the place. Suddenly I wasn’t laughing at the Pharisees any more.
Protecting My Kids
Some of the fences I had built didn’t keep sin out so much as keep it in. Like the Pharisees, I was clean on the outside, but inside the dirt was still there.
I took my kids to the book fair at school today and said no to one of the books they wanted because I was concerned about potential unbiblical content. I left feeling pretty “clean” that I had protected my children with this fence.
But God loved me too much to let me remain in my deception. He showed me that this fence I had built was not actually protecting my children but protecting my laziness. I didn’t want to take the time to read a longer book and use it to help them evaluate their reading material from a biblical world view. Clean-yet-still-dirty. Yuck.
Not all fences are budding legalism. Some are helpful, built out of necessity to avoid certain temptations. For example, alcoholism runs in my family. Though I still enjoy alcohol, I have now “built the fence” of measuring my wine from time to time to make sure that my glass doesn’t turn into a punch bowl!
Personal fences become legalism when we impose them on others. God was kind to show me that, too. Thankfully I haven’t pulled out a measuring cup for my friend to use (yet!). But if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I keep my fence-building materials at the ready when I’m watching others choose. I really am not as unlike the Pharisees as I would like to think.
I could easily be discouraged at the many temptations this chapter has revealed. But as 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds me, God will provide a way out so we can stand up under it. The “way out” is found in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Mark 7:6, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.”
God wants my heart to be close to His. That’s my best protection. He wants me to live in constant communion with Him as He guides me along the path. He wants to bring the protection of conviction when I erect fences as a decoy. He’s my Shepherd, guiding me along paths of righteousness for his Name’s sake. And even if I stray, he will call me back,
and bring me safely home,
“no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28.