I was a hospital chaplain when AIDS was first being diagnosed and there was rampant fear this would become a pandemic. It was common practice to wear gloves, a gown, and sometimes a mask when going to see an AIDS patient. Leviticus 13 reminds me of this as certain diseases are described as unclean. For instance Boils make you unclean, but Baldness is clean (thank God). Most chilling to me was that the unclean with defiling or contagious diseases had to stay outside the camp, keep their beards unkempt, wear a mask over the lower part of their face and shout “Unclean!” if anybody approached. The idea was that certain foods or certain people could defile you.
This was still being practiced when Jesus came on the scene. In Mark 7, Jesus boldly declares that it is not the food we take in from the outside that defiles us, it is what is inside. Jesus points out that food goes into our stomaches not our hearts. Dramatically Mark says in verse 19 “(In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) ” This was the “Emancipation Proclamation.” Long before Peter has his vision in Acts that pork was allowed, Jesus already declared it clean.
Have you ever noticed there is often a lag between the time we are declared free to the time we actually begin walking it out. I’m reminded of a song called Emancipation Blues that I sang when I was in Jr. High. The words struck me then and still do today. The verse said, “According to the laws of our nation, we’re free to leave the plantation, but instead of being happy, we’ve got emancipation blues. The picture in my blog is an actual sign produced by the Texas restaurant association.
Jesus immediately practiced what he preached when he was confronted by a Gentile woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon and she wanted her to be free. In the company of Jews, Jesus points out that he has come for the Jews. The woman challenges him that even the “dogs” get to eat the crumbs from the master’s table. Jesus breaks with Jewish law and heals this Gentile woman’s daughter.
Martin Luther King Jr said, “It’s been 100 years, and still we are not free.” I wonder how many of us are not practicing the freedom that God has declared over us. When we practice prejudice, we are not living in freedom. I wonder who it is who may feel unclean today that Jesus is inviting us to touch?
One of the favorite things I love about the church I attend is that it has become increasingly multi-racial. I’m sure that there are still corners of prejudice in my own heart that need to be revealed, but I am so thankful that God has allowed me to be a part of birthing a racially diverse congregation. I would say that I am ruined by the experience. I could not imagine being confortable for very long in a church that catered to my race only. In a part of the country where race riots and the KKK operated in the last century, our church stands as a symbol of peace in a segregated world. Nobody today would hang a sign like the one in our blog on their churches door, but many churches might as well, by the unwelcom given to people of other races.
Salvation is God’s Emancipation Proclamation over our lives, but discipleship is learning to walk it out. Jesus points out that sin is not an external issue, but a heart issue. Cleanse my heart today Lord that I might practice and spread the freedom that you have declared.