Summary: A sermon about the role of purity in the Christian life
A 2nd grade Sunday School teacher was giving a lesson on being pure. To help get the class thinking, she was having them finish famous sayings. She would give the first part, and then the kids would volunteer to finish.
“A bird in the hand is worth 2 in the “ (bush!)
“A rolling stone gathers no…” (moss!)
“Cleanliness is next to…” a little boy raised his hand, “Impossible !” I was recently reminded of that.
We just returned yesterday with our daughter and grandkids, after spending a week with them helping them as they move. Moving is messy. Moving with twins…whew! Usually, there are some things in life that matter to you: clean dishes, clean socks, a clean towel, food that hasn’t been chewed by someone else. But at some point, you quit worrying about some of those things. I think that point is reached when twins are born.
Babies are an interesting study in purity. There are few things as innocent and pristine as a little baby, and few things that make life messier. But the more I think about it, that’s a lot like what we’re supposed to be. As followers of Jesus, we’re supposed to somehow live in the middle of a messy world and yet not be just like it. We have to be involved in it. In fact, to follow the example of Jesus, we have to jump right into the middle of it. But at the same time, we’re supposed to steer clear of the dirt. We’re supposed to pull people from the flames and come back not burned. We’re supposed to remain pure while living in a very impure environment.
That’s a challenging thing to do, isn’t it? Too often, the numbers show very little difference between people on the outside and the inside of Church when it comes to the subject of purity. But my mind keeps going back to how basic this is to being a follower of Jesus.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James is talking about purity. Not about ritual. Not image management. Not just the things we do that everyone sees. But about being people who in God’s eyes are pure in a stained world.
The Old Testament was full of ritual, but there was a point to it. Was there a reason the Israelites weren't supposed to weave wool and linen together? Was there a reason they weren't to plow with an ox and a donkey together? Was there a reason they were to ceremonially cleanse themselves; to not eat certain foods?
It was more than just external. There was a lesson in all of it: They were to have a purity about them. Then Jesus came along and made it clear that God’s great concern is what’s going on inside us, not just the external things:
Mark 7 (v15) Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'" . . . (v20-23) "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"