the labor of love

Biblea biblical reflection, based on Mark 7:1-8, for tomorrow, the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, August 30, 2015

The Pharisees Question Jesus, James Tissot (1886-1894)

The Pharisees, strict adherents to religious ceremony and practice, law and tradition, argue with Jesus about washing hands. This isn’t a debate about table etiquette or good hygiene, but rather faithful observance, a sure sign of fidelity and gratitude to God. A problem arose (and arises still) when dutifulness in performing the deed becomes more important than the thankfulness of heart that the deed represents. Over against the zealous, over scrupulous attention to outward action Jesus stands on the side of inward intention and devotion.

Through the lens of this conversation, this confrontation, I also see the (our) human tendency toward exclusion. Our human desire, our human need to decide who belongs and who does not belong; hence, the pharisaical devotion to the traditions of ritual washing as a way of establishing the identity of the group, in this case, the Israelites. Determining and maintaining boundaries was where not all, but clearly these Pharisees focused their attention. This was their work, their life’s labor.

Jesus’ problem is not with the law itself, but rather that the practice of the law can obscure the point, the purpose of the law: loving God with one’s heart, soul, and strength.[1] Here love is not primarily emotion, but rather, allegiance, fidelity to God with one’s entire being. An inescapable corollary of loving God is loving others: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[2]  (And Jesus, in his Parable of the Good Samaritan expanded the definition of “neighbor” to include all people.)

Jesus, it seems to me, argues that God desires not to divide or exclude. That God does not build impenetrable walls and insuperable barriers between and amongst peoples, but rather invites all and includes all.

This makes sense to me, for this, I believe, is the labor of love.

Illustration: The Pharisees question Jesus, James Tissot (1886-1894)


[1] Deuteronomy 6.5

[2] Leviticus 19.18

2 thoughts on “the labor of love

  1. Thanks Paul! I’m sure this sermon will be inspiring!! A labor of love is always a Great thing!! For me, INclusion is so important. Everyone wants to be included in the groups they want to join, or just to feel a major part of and contributor to the human race. EXclusion is the worst feeling ever, and for those of us who have been EXcluded, I feel we go to greater effort to ensure we don’t cause others to feel EXcluded. It’s worth the Labor of Love for me to do what Jesus would want, that is to INclude ALL who want to be involved in any of the endeavors that I’m involved in. I’m sure you’ll add more to this sermon tomorrow as the spirit moves you and you digress!! May your voice be heard by all as you deliver this important message.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Loretta, but, for now, I’ve re-retired from Sunday ministry. I wrote this reflection based on the appointed gospel to keep my biblical discernment edge sharp. I won’t have opportunity to preach it, but, still, praying and reflecting and writing was good discipline.


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