Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God? Then why do we betray each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors?
Judah has been unfaithful, and a detestable thing has been done in Israel and in Jerusalem. The men of Judah have defiled the Lord’s beloved sanctuary by marrying women who worship idols. May the Lord cut off from the nation of Israel every last man who has done this and yet brings an offering to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Mal 2:10-12
This section of Malachi deals with the condemnation of the Jews who intermarried with women of other nations. Ezra and Nehemiah chronicle how this was happening:
After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. Ezra 9:1
Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. Neh 13:23
It shows us that it is important to keep ourselves away from negative influences.
Ken has been really big on this lately. He’s been listening to lessons by David Bercot, who espouses that Christians should maintain a strict purity of life. Bercot says we need to be very vigilant against letting the world corrupt us through the media, etc, and monitor what we watch and listen to. He says we even need to be vigilant against not letting worldly Christians corrupt us.
And then yesterday when Mike was preaching, he read, “bad company corrupts good character” in I Corinthians 15:33. He said that we shouldn’t be best friends or spend much time with those whose lives aren’t centered around the resurrection of Christ. I must confess, that sounded a little extreme to me, but I understand where he is coming from. We don’t mean to, but we really do become like those we hang around with.
So maybe we’re not guilty of being married to someone who worships other gods, but what kind of detestable practices do we tolerate? How often do we look the other way?
Ken and I were listening to Proverbs when we were driving up to Atlanta this past weekend, and we heard this convicting verse: “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” Prov. 25:26
Do we give way before the wicked? What do we do when our friends and coworkers cuss, lie, gossip, make sexual innuendos, and so forth? Do we try to separate ourselves? Or have we become so inured that we just carry on, or even join in?
Do we really think we can be keep ourselves from being polluted? I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we can see that we ARE affected by proximity to the world, be it through the people we’re around, or the things we allow ourselves to engage in. Either we are tempted by it, or our hearts are hardened to it, and it doesn’t seem as bad anymore.
And, like a virus, our pollution becomes contagious. “Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?” II Cor 5:6 We can’t fool ourselves. Others Christians will do what we do, and they will be affected by it as well.
That brings me to one of the most convicting parts of this passage in Malachi: “why do we betray one another?” As it says, we are all children of the same Father, and when we cohabit with the world, we betray our sisters and brothers because we are not helping them have a pure holy life, with a hunger only for God. Instead, we’re helping them to have a hunger for other things. I have been realizing more and more how necessary it is that we feed our heart with good things, and not with junk that clogs our spiritual arteries and diminishes the flow of our love for God.
In the end, I don’t know how to sort all of this out. We don’t want to become monks or Amish. But I do think we need to be much more cognizant of how the world affects us, and how we affect others as we engage in the things we do.
I am going to close with a little story from this weekend. Ken and I went to see our family and go to my granddaughter’s birthday party. As we helped my daughter get ready for the party, my husband decided to scrub at some of my daughter’s walls, which had been scribbled on by the kids. He knew that she was embarrassed to have the birthday guests see the walls, but hadn’t been able to clean them. So my husband got a cloth and some cleaner, and applied a lot of painstaking elbow grease. After awhile, my son saw him scrubbing, and got a cloth and helped too. And they were able to get the walls clean, and it looked so much better!
My daughter told me later that it reminded her of Jesus, and how he washed his disciples’ feet. Her dad washed the things that were dirty and embarrassing, that no one else wanted to work on. And then his good deeds influenced her brother to wash as well.
Good deeds are contagious. Bad ones are too. Let’s make it our goal to live a holy life and be a positive influence, not be a negative one!
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. II Cor 7:1
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 1:27