Note: Inspiration for this post comes from the Bible study “Living Your Life as a Beautiful Offering” by Angela Thomas. I trust that I’ve made the words my own, but because it is my response to today’s study it may echo many of her thoughts.
Purity. I will confess I have always somewhat rebelled against the idea. I am at heart a rebel, and to me purity will always be the image of ‘good girl’ that was pushed on me by my mother. Good girls don’t speak up, don’t wear short skirts or short shorts, watch their necklines, don’t call attention to themselves, obey their parents, live sweet and unassuming lives. Oh, I hated the ‘good girl’. It didn’t help that my mother was constantly reminding me that one of the meanings of my name was ‘Pure’. She delighted in the idea of turning out the perfect pure little Christian daughter. I delighted in secretly subverting that ideal.
Here I am, many years later, and the idea of purity still gets under my skin. Yet Jesus says “Blessed are the pure in heart, because they will see God.” Reading through today’s Bible study I see that purity has to do with confessing our sins, with asking God to cleanse us from our guilt. Is there a difference, then, between the purity that I was taught and the purity being spoken of in this verse?
So I turned to the Strong’s Lexicon and Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. (OK, that sounds more impressive than it sounds, really I just clicked a few internet links.) The Greek word used in this verse is katharos. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Sure enough, a trip to the dictionary showed me that the word “catharsis” comes from the root katharos. Catharsis. A purging and cleansing of thoughts and emotions. Taking it back to the root it means free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt, blameless, innocent, unstained with the guilt of anything.
I am going to pick up stains in this life. It is just a fact. Just like my kitchen floor collects crumbs daily and needs to be constantly cleansed, I’m going to pick up crumbs and grime and dirt as I go through life. I’ll be less than merciful to someone, I’ll do something out of selfishness, I’ll lie to my children (“Laffy Taffy? No, there’s no Laffy Taffy left. No, I don’t know why you smell Laffy Taffy in my mouth.”). Purity has less to do with the accumulation of that dirt, and more to do with being cleansed from it. Repeatedly cleansed from it.
If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
I like that idea of purity better. It isn’t something I have to attain through trying to be some super saint, through trying to be someone I’m not. It’s something that happens to me when I continually turn to God and say “OK, I’ve collected some crumbs and spills here, can you please clean me up?” On my own I’m going to be stained with guilt; only God is capable of cleansing and purifying me from those stains.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10