A good friend was helping me in the kitchen, preparing baking apples. I passed her a small sharp knife. After a while, I noticed she was struggling. “You haven’t got a potato peeler have you?” she asked. She had never used a knife to peel apples, but since my mother always used a knife, it had never occurred to me to do any different!
Well Moses had succeeded in one thing for sure – he had got the Israelites out of Egypt. But a difficult, longterm job was underway now – to get Egypt out of the Israelites. For hundreds of years they had been a subculture in a powerful and highly successful land. It’s hardly surprising that some of it had rubbed off on them. The Egyptians had an array of gods they worshipped, for every eventuality. Sure, God had proved himself supremely powerful over them in all the plagues, and the crossing of the Red Sea, but imbibed culture is hard to shake off entirely. Exodus 22:18-20 seem very harsh words, but it was essential to give the people more than clear incentive to leave behind the ungodly practices and habits they had picked up in Egypt. They were going to be a light to all the other nations, a demonstration model of how to live in relationship with Almighty God. They could not take with them any who would not shake off those old ways.
We have no idea how much of our culture we absorb, because we unquestioningly take it as the ‘norm’. Like peeling apples. Much of it is neutral; some of it is positive, but unless we were brought up in a Christian bubble, there are many aspects of the world we take on board that are very unhelpful to our spiritual development. Horoscopes, good luck charms, and superstition for example. Only yesterday I had a conversation about our recent mini-disasters (flood in the kitchen, broken wheel on the mobility scooter, smashed iPad…) “So you’ve had your three then?” enquired my friend. “Oh we are way past three…” I found myself saying. The concept of accidents coming in threes is so imbibed into our culture, it was there on my tongue before I’d thought about it. Our language can quickly degrade too, to match those we live around.
What hope for purity then? What chance of being the ‘demonstration model of how to live in relationship with Almighty God’? Simply ask God himself to show you areas of your life that do not match up with his standards. He who rescued us out of sin, wants nothing more than to take the sin out of us. It might be a difficult longterm job, but God is up for it. Are you?