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Jesus and Disgust


The feeling of “disgust” is an interesting concept.  Recently, I read a very challenging book by Richard Beck about the spiritual impact of “disgust” on our walk with Jesus. The concept is this… When something is “unclean” or “disgusting” it makes everything it comes in contact with unclean and disgusting.

Take for instance a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice with a two-inch cockroach swimming around in it. The unclean cockroach has “defiled” the orange juice… And the thought of chugging down this orange juice with a massive bug in it should, and has probably brought about some level of “disgust” in your mind, no matter how thirsty you were!

Now if I took that same glass of orange juice, took the bug out, triple-filtered the juice—making it actually more clean than it was before—poured it back into a clean glass, and set it before you, remembering the cockroach swimming around in it before, even then, you would still probably not drink it.

The emotion of “disgust” is extremely powerful. The human equation of disgust is this: Unclean things make good things unclean and disgusting, never the other way around. Dropping a dirty cockroach into the fresh orange juice would never suddenly make the bug clean. Or, for another example, if I dropped a delicious fresh grilled hamburger into the trash, it would not make the trash can clean. The hamburger would be ruined.

We live our lives like this, avoiding dirty, disgusting, unclean things, places, and people in hopes that their “dirtyness” won’t rub off on us. But when we look at how Jesus lived, he did the opposite.  

Jesus searched out the unclean things, people, and places of this world, touched them, and actually made them clean and holy—the clean actually purifying the unclean. He goes against the law of disgust, the law of sin really, and touches people, forgives people, who are deemed unclean and disgusting…

This is the good news of Jesus.

We find ourselves this weekend in Simon’s house, gasping, disgusted at the unclean prostitute at Jesus feet (Luke 7.36-50). How could he not know? Didn’t he realize what it meant to associate with people like this? Jesus answers by letting us know we are missing the point, and missing our mission.

Those of us who were once also unclean in every way should be overflowing with love and compassion. We should be on mission, taking the power of this gospel to “dark,” “dirty” places and people.


Matt Stowell | missions and service
Matt serves as the pastor of missions and service at Ada Bible Church. He and his wife Debbie have three great kids and attend the Knapp Street Campus. They have been involved in full-time ministry for over 17 years, serving most recently in Chiang Mai, Thailand. When Matt is not traveling he enjoys hanging out with the family, building stuff, and football.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Doug Redford #


    Powerful imagery! I don’t think I’ll look at a glass of orange juice the same way again.

    But you’re right. This is exactly what we’re called to do as we follow the example of Jesus. I’m wondering if we (maybe unintentionally) view this “mission” as one of those “optional” parts of being a Jesus follower.

    “Yes,” we say, “taking the power of this gospel to dark and dirty places and people is important. And I know that someday I’ll get around to doing that. But not right now. Life is too crazy busy for us. You know, with school, and sports, and activities, and the job…”

    We’re certainly not opposed to doing this; it’s just that by our actions we communicate that it’s really not all that important. We have good intentions and we WILL do it. Someday.

    September 4, 2013
  2. Vicky Graham #

    Thank you. A good reminder that a prepared & ready heart that is faithful to God even tho the task appears to be fruitless & frustrating may be used for Gods Glory & delight…insights taken from Windows in Heaven by V. Raymond Edman.

    September 5, 2013
  3. Joel #

    Matt, this is both profound and spot on. I wonder how many “unclean” people we rub shoulders with or have the opportunity to reach out to each day? Reaching out to these people will take no small degree of intentionality and humility. Could we be so bold as to ask God to place these people in our lives, open our eyes to see them, and strengthen us to reach out to them? I think we should. Thanks for your thoughts!

    September 6, 2013
  4. Dean #

    Interesting OT commentary on this check ont Haggai 2.10-19:

    10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, 11 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. 15 Now then, consider from this day onward.[a] Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, 16 how did you fare? When[b] one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”

    September 11, 2013
  5. As I was reading your ‘triple filtered’ sentence I was thinking, “No way! I still wouldn’t touch it.” And then, that’s what you said, but it still didn’t make me stop cringing. :)

    This is so true! And what power Jesus has– to be able to reverse the process of clean-to-dirty into dirty-to-clean. He entered our trashcan-world, took our defilement onto himself, and offers to make us just as spotless as he is. And all the while, he never made us to feel that he was disgusted with us.

    September 24, 2013

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