Matthew 15:10-11,18-19 (Good News Bible)
Then Jesus called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand! It is not what goes into your mouth that makes you ritually unclean; rather, what comes out of it makes you unclean.…the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these are the things that make you ritually unclean. For from your heart come the evil ideas which lead you to kill, commit adultery, and do other immoral things: to rob, lie, and slander others.”
Can a relationship make you unclean?
The answer is No, not any more than dirty hands or unwashed carrots can. However, relationships—especially the difficult ones—have a way of revealing our hearts, which is where true defilement resides, Jesus says.
We all have people in our lives who are especially good at provoking, offending, or even abusing us. What they do to us can never make us unclean. However, the way we respond to such people does test the purity of our hearts and the genuineness of our faith. Choosing a tempered response, for example, reflects our trust in Christ’s promise that although we will face trouble in this world, we can choose the way of love and peace because he has ultimately overcome the world and its evil.
The apostle Paul describes how to stand firm as followers of Christ in the face of malicious behavior when he writes to the Roman Christians, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” And again, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:17, 21)
Which relationships in your life seem to test the unsurrendered, unwashed corners of your heart? For example, with what person are you most tempted to retaliate with angry words or violence or stubborn silence? Who is your favorite subject for gossip or mean descriptions? Is there someone you are apt to criticize and condemn more readily than you are to accept and forgive?
Consider how your response might change if you surrendered that corner of your heart to Jesus.
FATHER, make me sensitive to the unwashed corners of my heart that I hide from you. I confess I am often blind to my responsibility for conflict in my relationships, and I ask you to help me to change. Cleanse my heart as only you can do. Give me purity of faith that will shine through and help me to love and forgive even the most difficult people in my life.
Psalm 51:2-3; John 16:33
How has God used a difficult relationship to teach you about the condition of your heart?