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1 Thessalonians 4:7

For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.

Clean hearts

We have observed that holiness is about love, overflowing love. The opposite of the sacred is the profane, the unclean, the impure. If holiness is love, then uncleanness is when love fails.

Where love ends, where the heart grows cold, where compassion fails, where hardness triumphs – let alone greed, lust, envy, despair and every other grave disruption of the human heart – there is no holiness.

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Cleanliness, purity, is about things in their proper place. For the girls to “clean their room” meant to pick up their clothes, make their beds, put their books on their desk – and bring plates and cups back to the kitchen. Garden soil is good in the garden, bad in the kitchen. Ants are fine in the woods but anathema in house.

That Pharisees were concerned about purity, but – like many religious people – it was the outward purity of cups and hands. Jesus was concerned with purity of heart. The proper place for the human heart is in the love of God: the overflowing love of God. When it dwells in God, when it abides in love, when it overflows with love, it is holy. When the heart dwells anywhere else, it is impure.

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Now, notice the prepositions in our verse: “God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.” You would almost expect it to say “God did not call us to impurity but to holiness,” as if holiness were the goal. But it isn’t the goal; it is the font.

When we are abiding in God’s overflowing love, then we are in the right place. Then we are holy, and love will overflow.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.

– Psalm 51:10