By Dr. Jenny Te Paa
Often seen as the definitive ‘law book’ of the Bible, Leviticus narrates how God separated and sanctified Israel to himself as a holy people, expecting them to reflect the nature of God’s holiness by separating from all that was unholy.
The holiness called for in Leviticus was not merely for individual or private piety but was a holistic and inescapable expectation covering all spheres of human activity.
The people Israel were however prone to human failing just as we are today. It was for this reason that the Day of Atonement (Ch. 16) was implemented as a priestly responsibility intended to address the ‘impurities’, which potentially endanger community.
While the impurities listed in the book of Leviticus provide us fascinating examples of what was once considered utterly profane, the march of scientific and moral progress since that time now leads us in some instances to very different understandings.
As God’s 21st century Christian people we are nevertheless still challenged to discern and to act against the ‘impurities’ of our times, those things which create and sustain grave social disorder and which thus put distance between ourselves and God.
Marks Gospel provides some dynamic examples of how it is that we are to be as Christ’s witnesses in the world. He does so by highlighting the age-old universal impurities of superficial spirituality, of hungering for power, of insider arrogance, of the misuse of power.
As with the disciples we too need constant reminding of the behavioural and attitudinal standards expected in return for our unconditional acceptance as members of the beloved community.
Our task then is to act constantly and faithfully against those things, which are life denying, life diminishing or dishonouring of the God created humanity of any in the global village.
What are some of the ‘impurities’ listed in Leviticus 16 – 18, which you feel can no longer be realistically upheld?
How do you as an Anglican model in your day-to-day faith journey, your belief that ‘the first must be last and servant of all’?
“How precious are your steadfast loving O God? All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings . . . For with you is the fountain of life: in your light we see light. Amen. (Psalm 36)
Dr. Jenny Te Paa is the Principal of Te Rau Kahkatea at St. John’s College in Auckland, New Zealand.