He went on, "What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men's hearts, comes evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean'. - Mark 7:20
Being 'clean' or 'unclean' was very important to the Jewish people in the Old Testament, during Jesus' time and even today. We understand that we as Christians are under no obligation the Mosaic Law, that the Mosaic Law does not make us clean and acceptable before God.
The concept of being either 'clean' or 'unclean' can be viewed as either being acceptable in the presence of God or unacceptable and for the Jewish people that was defined by the Mosaic Laws. So people following the law started off doing it so that they could be found acceptable to God and so they could enter into God's holy presence. Yet with all of these we find that the Mosaic Law became like a God to some of the people, it became their master dictating how they should live life. Here Jesus is trying to explain that it is not what they eat that makes them unclean, but what they do. Here Jesus is destroying and tearing down generations of traditions of following the food guidelines laid out in the law. He was in essence declaring all food to be clean, because it is not what we eat that makes us clean before God, Jesus does that. Which is why later in the book of Galatians Paul and Peter have some words about making Gentiles follow the Law as a requirement to be part of the movement of Jesus. They didn't need to, the Law did not make anyone clean before God.
Yet, Jesus does talk about what does make us unclean, what shows that we are not walking in the way of Jesus. He states that these are actions and thoughts that come from within us, that we are defiled by actions and thoughts. Instead of focusing on what we are putting into our bodies, it is what we do and how we act.
What we as followers of Jesus need to focus on is not a list of rules and regulations, but focus on our actions and thoughts. Our actions show what we believe to be true, our orthopraxy is so important. Each day we need to look inward and see if we are following in the footsteps of Jesus, because if our heart is full of evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murderer, adultery, greed, malice, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. These are what make us unclean before God.
Proverbs 28:13 - He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
We all struggle with something on the list that Jesus gives, but we should not get down on ourselves over that. Let us not hide our sins from God and each other, let us reveal them and expose them. In doing so we can find freedom, we can find mercy and grace and we find that God cleanses us from all unrighteousness. If we confess to God our short comings the scriptures tell us that "God if faith to forgive us and cleans us from all unrighteousness." The struggle to be like Christ is real, but there is hope in the forgiveness and power of God. Us being clean or unclean is not reliant on the following the law, but on the confession of our shortcomings to God. Let us be honest with ourselves, admit our wrongs and allow God to renew our minds to think more like the divine
So, may we not be people of laws, rules and regulations, but of confession, mercy and grace. May we forgive each other as Christ forgives us, may we love each other and Christ loves us and may we continue to strive to be like Jesus.