I love cruising. I know there are hazards. Seasickness could leave your Christmas dinner spewed about the bathroom, as happened on my first cruise. Instead of relaxing by the ship’s pool, bad weather could leave you stranded indoors playing cards with the free decks the ship’s staff handed out. That was my second cruise. Third cruise, you could offend a friend you are traveling with. There are hazards, but I still love cruising.
My husband and I decided to sail a different cruise line for our fourth cruise. The first thing I noticed on the ship was blue and white orbs everywhere I went. They stood like sentries by the elevators, guarded the entry to every restaurant and bathroom. If their siren call did not draw your hands to them for a squirt of germx, cruise employees armed with spray bottles of germx singing “Washy Washy, Happy Happy, eaty eaty” pointed the bottle at your hands and smiled. Clearly, they understood the hazards created by unclean hands.
At first, I resisted, but then an angel appeared or maybe an employee wearing wings, with a spray bottle in hand. By the end of the cruise, I looked forward to being sprayed before I entered the buffet line. The constant cleansing of my hands reminded me of a verse in Psalms, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, … He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior” (Psalms 24:4-5).
The Jews took the concept of clean hands literally and applied it with a vengeance. They washed their hands after visiting the bathroom; after cutting one’s hair or nails; after participating in a funeral procession, upon leaving a cemetery, or coming within four cubits of a corpse; after touching a normally covered part of your body (private parts, back, arm pits, etc.); after touching inside of the nose and ear; after touching the scalp, but not if you just touched the hair.
The Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus why his disciples did not keep the tradition of the elders to wash their hands before they ate. Jesus considered the practice a “commandment of men” which made the worship of God vain. He responded by condemning traditions that voided the commands of God. Then he offended the Pharisees with a little common sense, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean'” (Matthew 15:11, NIV). Washing one’s hands with water may prevent the spread of disease, but it will never produce a clean heart.