Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. – Psalms 24:3-5 (NIV)
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 (NIV)
There is a Seinfeld episode where Jerry is on a date at a restaurant when he runs into the chef in the bathroom. When the chef, Papi, leaves the bathroom, he does so without washing his hands. Given Jerry’s phobic tendencies about germs, hilarity ensues when Papi brings their food to the table. I have to admit my own unease with that kind of situation. There are appropriate times and places for cleanliness, and preparing food for others certainly fits the bill.
When discussing salvation, I have heard the phrase, “You don’t have to clean up for a bath.” The idea is that since God will clean you up in the work of salvation that you don’t need to clean up your sin first. This is a true and correct perspective because we cannot clean up our own sin. But once saved, we can maintain cleanliness. It is one thing to ask someone to wash their hands before preparing food at a restaurant, but can you imagine if they had to take a shower every time they came back into the kitchen?
We need to be clean. It is healthy, makes us feel better and certainly is considerate for those around us with sensitive noses. In the same way, purity of spirit is healthy, makes us feel better and gives us the ability to “consider others as more important than ourselves.” There is a cleansing we are given and there is a cleanliness we maintain. One we receive that removes the stain of sin and one helps keep us from sin.
Too often we wait for the bath. We wait until the dirt and grime of un-confessed sin has built up and the Spirit convicts us to seek cleansing. Been there, done that (more than once). By the grace and mercy of God, we are forgiven and made new, but maturity and purity ask us to grow strong and true so that we remain clean. We all fall. We all come short, but in the pursuit of holiness, we can find ourselves falling less and coming closer to the mark. A daily discipline of cleanliness can help us in this pursuit.
Confession and repentance are the cleansing steps we take toward purity. When we make them a daily discipline, we set ourselves apart for something better than a cycle of deprivation and redemption. This is the life I want and hope for and struggle after. This is the life God’s holiness calls me to. This is the life God gently reminds me of in the moments I need a bath. Lord, help me to be holy as you are holy. Give me clean hands and a pure heart. Amen.