“So when Pilate so that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying ‘I am innocent of this man’s (Jesus’) blood…”Matthew 27:24
At least one good thing that has come out of our present health crisis is that we have cleaner hands. Personally, my hands are cleaner than ever. I mean, I washed them before, but I’m much more rigorous about it now. Just about every hand sanitizer I see, I stop to get a squirt or two.
Oh, to be as rigorous about the condition of my heart.
Naturally, our hearts are messy anyway (Jeremiah 17:9), but living in this world only makes it more challenging to keep them clean. Contaminates abound and it is virtually impossible to avoid contact. And since everything about us flows from the heart (Proverbs 4:23), a chronically yucky heart will only lead to a chronically yucky life.
But it seems that it is much easier to dwell on exterior matters like handwashing than to have a deeper look into the heart of the matter. In Matthew 15, Jesus chastised some self-righteous Pharisees because they were so concerned about upholding hand-washing protocols while completely neglecting the condition of their hearts, the core of their being. Quoting Isaiah, Jesus said,
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)
He then went on to explain,
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” – v. 19-20
In other words, a grimy heart is much more consequential than grimy hands. While good hygiene is obviously important, attending to the heart is even more so. Jesus wasn’t dissing hand-washing as much as He was maximizing concern for the condition of our hearts.
So, how do we sanitize our hearts? What measures can we take to de-contaminate way down deep?
There’s one helpful practice that comes to mind and it is as basic as soap. Speaking to Christians, the Apostle John made this statement:
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” -I John 1:8-9
What we’re talking about is confession. And lest we reduce it to a mindless religious ritual, confession is more than just a self-disclosing statement; it is a posture before God. It means coming to Him humbly and with rugged honesty, knowing that He knows the nitty-gritty details about us yet loves us just the same.
As a believer, I still sin. No surprise there. I’m growing and developing in the faith but I still blow it regularly. Therefore, to keep my heart clean, I need to confess regularly as well.
One of my favorite Bible teachers, Tom Constable, explains why regular confession is necessary:
“God cleanses us at conversion in the sense that He will never bring us into condemnation for our sins (cf. Rom. 8:1; 1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 1:7). However, we need continual cleansing from the defilement that sinful daily living brings because it hinders our fellowship with God (cf. John 13:10).”
Like our hands, our hearts get dirty. It’s just the way it is. But authentic confession cleanses. That’s also the way it is. While hand sanitizer may only get 99.9% of the germs on your hands, because of Jesus, confession brings 100% cleansing to your heart.
So how’s your heart today? Chances are, it needs some attention. In a world gone sideways, maybe this would be a good time to visit the throne of grace? Remember, you can always come as you are but you’ll never stay as you came.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.