Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” – Mark 7:1-13
I saw it today, personally. The young single mother of a two-month-old came to talk about having her child baptized. She was raised in the church, but turned away as a young teenager. She is now with her atheist boyfriend and worried about what her daughter will be taught – or worse yet be treated – if she were to allow her to be baptized.
It is a sad tale of woe. And it ushered her into my office with many questions about how the Bible views women, how the church relates to children born out of wedlock, and wholesale assumptions about the foundations of the Christian faith.
She has surely gotten her information from places other than a humble reading of God’s word nor from honest, humble Jesus followers. I’m guessing Internet searches, unreligious, agnostic, and atheist friends had helped guide her to this place. There were all kinds of false narratives and some flaky foundations from which she addressed her concerns.
The moment she identified as the turning point was when she asked what might well have been an impertinent question and “they yelled at me.” The question had to do with a tradition – albeit well-founded – that she didn’t understand. Nor did she believe in it. But the problem wasn’t the tradition, it was the manner of the answer. Yelling seldom quiets either a troubled soul or even an impertinent teenager.
So we talked about grace and forgiveness. We spoke of the Old Testament and the New Covenant, about Ceremonial Laws and the way Jesus fulfilled all of them and established a covenant of forgiveness.
The question we’ll need to deal with next time we meet is whether she really wants forgiveness. Too often that’s the rub with those outside the faith. People don’t naturally want to confess their sins. We’d rather determine for ourselves what is good and evil.
That is where the word of God comes in. Jesus speaks of the word of God as something not to be set aside – either for religious or self-serving reasons. We dare not set aside God’s word in an attempt to find peace. Nor dare we let traditions get in the way of people who need desperately to hear the truth and grace of Jesus.