What’s the Point of Purity? The Underneath

I like to have a clean kitchen floor. I might like it a little too much. Ten years ago, I never noticed. But now that it is my responsibility, I notice in great detail. Sweeping the kitchen floor is one of the responsibilities that my sons can choose when helping out around the house. They often choose to sweep, I believe, because they find it to be easier than other chores. But, when they do, I have to fight the urge to go sweeping right behind them. Why? Because I see it at a different level of clean than they do.
Purity is very much the same. We have, for example, our “church image.” We clean ourselves up, announce that we are going to church, and walk slowly past those neighbors who choose not to attend church. From a distance, we look pretty good. Again, this is like my kitchen floor. If you came to visit me on any given day, the kitchen floor would look pretty good. You might not even think it should be swept because chances are it would be less than 24 hours since the last sweeping. But I would know differently.
Take your church image one layer deeper. If you have attended the same church for a while, you have hopefully connected with some faithful brothers and sisters. And, if you have been fortunate enough to engage in authentic friendships, somebody knows your dirt. They know you’re not perfect, and that’s okay. They know that all of us get dirt on our floors, so there is no need to pretend. This is the equivalent of my sons sweeping the floor. They know there is dirt, and they are willing to help. And even though they know that, I know that there is more. I know that there is dirt they do not see. So now I have a choice: point it out, or address it myself.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:8
Sweeping the kitchen floor, as with all household responsibilities, has been difficult for me to surrender. I know how to do it, and I can do it quickly and properly. If I surrender the responsibility, it might take longer, and it might not be done properly. I tend to treat my “life dirt” in much the same way. I don’t always know who can handle the mess I have. Who do I allow to get close enough to see? Let’s go back to church, and the kitchen floor. We are reluctant to point out all of our dirt in a church body. That sounds intimidating. But with some, generally the ones we find to be like us, we share. But they don’t see it all, do they? They don’t know about the dirt in the corner, nor of the dirt in the shadows. So now what? Well, now we get on our knees.
The truth is that I don’t see all of the dirt either. I can sweep every day if I want to, but that will not reveal the same thing as if I get on my knees to scrub. I recently gave up mopping in favor of scrubbing. It takes about the same amount of time, and it is more effective. But I don’t allow just anyone to scrub my floor. Someone whom I trust with the task could scrub. Someone that will not mock my mess, but will instead work toward cleaning it up can scrub my floor. The same is true in the Body. Not everyone needs to hear how you spilled all over – again. Not everyone wants to hear. But some do. Or maybe even one. For you this may be a spouse, or a strong brother or sister in Christ. When you engage in authentic, Christ-centered relationships, you may find a scrubbing partner. We often talk of “accountability partners,” but we can just as easily call them “purity partners.” Someone who can not only know your mess, but get down in the mess with you. Someone who will not quickly sweep and leave, but someone who will take time on their knees with you, side-by-side.
That should do it, right? Connect with the Body, share your dirt, and find a purity partner. Clean floor, clean heart..right? Not quite. God, as you may have heard, does not address our outside. Our surface is secondary. Jesus, like his Father, did not address outward appearances as much as he did the underneath. Consider the well-known story of the woman caught in adultery, as recorded in John 8. It is possible that she, like us, had a “church image.” Perhaps she could walk past some and have them fooled. Maybe a few of her closer friends knew of some of her dirt. Maybe she even had a dear friend or sister who knew of her private struggles. It is possible that she, like us, worked really hard to clean up her mess. But it was not enough.
It is not enough for us either. You see, if you came over today, you would think that I have a clean kitchen floor. You would be right, but I could prove you wrong. No matter how much we clean ourselves up, there is always something underneath. When I moved in nearly five years ago, the kitchen had, as it does now, those peel-and-stick tiles in the kitchen. In case you did not know, those don’t stick as well when they sit on a floor that rests over a Michigan basement in winter. Some have come up at the edges. Some have caught on something and broken. What that means, then, is that I have a mess. You will not easily see it, but I know it is there. In fact, I recently peeked under the edge of one of the tiles and was horrified at the dirt underneath. Every time that I, or anyone else, has swept, more dirt has gone underneath.
Sound familiar? You get another ticket, but you quickly take care of it before others find out. You go to a website you swore that you wouldn’t visit again, but then you clear the history to make it “go away.” You promised not to text him anymore, but you do, and then clear your texts. Or your email. Or your messages. You try to clean up your dirt….but it’s still there.
The woman in John 8 had her dirt exposed. She had been caught in adultery and could legally be stoned to death. In keeping with my kitchen floor example, it would be what you would see if I ripped up half of the tiles right before you visited – a filthy mess. But Jesus is not horrified. Not at all. In fact, the picture that is given is one of Jesus’s most calm moments. With a hostile crowd around him and a woman facing death, Jesus draws on the ground. He sees the mess. He knows the consequence. But he also knows this: we all have dirt underneath. So he reminded the crowd of that, and one by one they went away. Jesus knows how we try to cover ourselves; it has been happening since Adam and Eve. But, regardless of the covering, there is an underneath. And it’s a mess. And it belongs to him.
Now, let’s suppose that I want to get serious about having a clean kitchen floor. There is really only one option at this point: strip it all away, expose the mess, and put in something new. That’s it. And that’s it with Jesus, too. You see, if I am selective about who scrubs my floor, I am going to be very picky when it comes to installing a new floor. I want an expert, a Master, if you will. That is Jesus. That is what he did for the woman, and that is what he will do for you.
The woman stood before him, her covered-up mess uncovered. Jesus sent the crowd away to confront their own mess, and remained one-on-one with the woman. It is a classic “Now what?” moment. Jesus saw the underneath, swept it clean (“Neither do I condemn you”), and gave her a new covering (“Go now and leave your life of sin”). Jesus did not come to simply clean us up. Anyone can clean the outside. But who can clean the inside? Only the One we allow in, only Christ.
The verse from Matthew 5 speaks about the “pure in heart.” I believe that, when this woman walked away, she knew she had seen God. She had become pure in heart not because she had done everything right, but because Jesus had transformed her.
Neither will you nor I get everything right. We will sin. That leaves us with a mess. So now what? To truly get at our underneath, you don’t make a prayer request within the Body. You don’t confess to your spouse or accountability partner. Not that you don’t do those things, but in doing those things you should be pointed to, and found standing by, Christ. Only he can make you pure.
You put on a nice covering; it looks good. But I know, and you know, what is underneath. You don’t need to wait until your mess is exposed in public. Please don’t. Jesus loves to transform lives. He was not sent to condemn, but to save. If you have been covering up your dirt, stop. If you didn’t even know it was there, get down on your knees and look. Trust me, it’s there. Expose your heart to Christ. Let the Master not just clean you up but also place a new covering on you. Allow him to present you as one who is pure in heart, with a new underneath.

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