14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15-16 Nothing outside you can defile you by going into you. Rather, it is what comes out of you that defiles you." 17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters you from the outside can defile you? 19 For it doesn't go into your heart but into your stomach, and then out of your body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) 20 He went on: "What comes out of you is what defiles you. 21 For from within, out of your hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile you." (Mark 7:14-22)
21nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (Lk. 17:21 NIV)
Jesus was concerned about the heart- not the physical heart, and not just the mushy feeling part of us- but the very core of our being. In Jesus day (and in ours), many are concerned with spin, with appearance, with the exterior. Martin Luther said it like this, "Love God and do what you will." When our heart is right, the rest of us will follow.
Now, how do we get our hearts right, and how do we know what they are right? Again it is not just an experience. But it is an experience combined with belief and the object of that belief. For the Old Testament the emphasis was on having an undivided and focused heart- and this is for Jesus too (seek first the kingdom of God). Jesus said the most important commandment was to love the Lord God with all your heart (soul, mind, and strength)m and the seond was to love neighbor as self- and if we have these two loves straight all the Old Testament (law and prophets) hang on them (Mt. 22:36-40). The love is not just a mushy love, but a focused love with a true and unabstract object (God and neighbor). So to have our hearts right isn't just about feeling and experience- though certainly it is about them. But it is also about the focus of our love- the God revealed in scripture.
There have been times that have over-emphasized the object of our hearts(God) and have underemphasized the love which comes out of our hearts for that object. Paul says that if I have a faith that can move mountains but have not love (for God and neighbor) I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:1,2). Love keeps our faith from being just dry, dusty dogma. But the object of our love keeps us from being scattered and without purpose. If I say I love my spouse but do not show any affection or attention our love will wither. If I say I love my spouse but I am not focused on them but on others then my love is meaningless. The scripture keeps us focused, but the Spirit enables us to make that love real within us.
Prayer: Help my focus, O Lord, be on you. Help my love for you to be deep and true this day.