Maintain “Purity of Heart” in These Critical Times
“NO ONE can deny that chastity is a problem in the Church today.” Catholic journalist Vittorio Messori made that observation on the sex scandals that have recently involved the Church in Italy. “And it cannot be resolved by abolishing ecclesiastical celibacy because 80 percent of the cases involve gays—cases of sexual deviation of priests who abuse men and boys.”—La Stampa.
Rampant wickedness is without doubt a sign of these “last days” of the present system of things. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) As news reports show, the resulting moral decay has a negative influence not only on people in general but also on those who call themselves men of God. Their corrupt and impure heart moves them to commit depraved acts. (Eph. 2:2) For good reason, Jesus warned that “out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies.” (Matt. 15:19) Jehovah God, however, desires that his servants love “purity of heart.” (Prov. 22:11) So how can a Christian maintain a pure heart in these critical times?
What Does It Mean to Be “Pure in Heart”?
In the Bible, “heart” is often used in a symbolic sense. According to one reference work, the Biblical term for heart indicates the “innermost part of man” and “is supremely the one centre in man to which God turns, in which the religious life is rooted, which determines moral conduct.” The heart represents what we really are on the inside. As the above-quoted work highlights, it is this that Jehovah examines and that he appreciates in his servants.—1 Pet. 3:4.
In the Bible, “pure” and “clean” can indicate what is clean in a physical sense. But the terms are also applied to what is uncontaminated—not adulterated, soiled, or corrupted—in a moral and religious sense. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared: “Happy are the pure in heart.” He was referring to those who are, in effect, clean inside. (Matt. 5:8) Their affections, desires, and motives are pure. Motivated by love and gratitude, they love Jehovah with all their heart, sincerely, without hypocrisy. (Luke 10:27) You want to be pure in that sense, do you not?
The Challenge—Remaining “Pure in Heart”
A servant of Jehovah has to be not only “innocent in his hands” but also “clean in heart.” (Ps. 24:3, 4) Today, however, it is an ever-increasing challenge for God’s servants to remain “clean in heart.” Satan and the world under his rule, as well as our own imperfect flesh, exert a strong pressure to distance us from Jehovah. To resist these pressures, it is of utmost importance that we love “purity of heart” and keep a tight grip on it. This will safeguard us and help us to continue to be God’s friends. How can we maintain a pure heart?
At Hebrews 3:12, we find the warning: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” We cannot remain “pure in heart” if we develop a heart “lacking faith.” What ideas has Satan the Devil spread to undermine faith in God? These include the theory of evolution, moral and religious relativism, and doubt concerning the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. We must not let ourselves be affected by such death-dealing ideology. (Col. 2:8) Daily Bible reading and deep meditation are prime defenses against these attacks. Accurate knowledge of God’s Word will fuel our love for Jehovah and our appreciation for his dealings. Such love and appreciation are indispensable if we want to reject false reasonings and keep our faith in Jehovah strong so that we can maintain a pure heart.—1 Tim. 1:3-5.
When Faced With Fleshly Desires
Another type of attack that we may face in trying to maintain “purity of heart” involves fleshly and materialistic desires. (1 John 2:15, 16) The love of money or the desire to amass riches and possess material things can corrupt the heart, leading a Christian to do things that go against God’s will. A few have become dishonest at work, have cheated others, or have even stolen money or objects that do not belong to them.—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
On the other hand, by cultivating a healthy fear of displeasing Jehovah, loving justice, and being determined to hold a good conscience, we show that we love “purity of heart.” That love moves us to continue to “conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Heb. 13:18) When we act uprightly, honesty can result in a fine witness. Emilio, an Italian Witness who works as a driver for a public transport company, found a wallet containing 470 euros ($680, U.S.). To the surprise of his colleagues, he handed the wallet to his supervisor, who later gave the wallet to the person who had lost it. Some of Emilio’s colleagues were so impressed by his conduct that they became interested in the Bible and started to study. As a result, seven people from two families have accepted the truth. Yes, behaving honestly from a pure heart really can move others to praise God.—Titus 2:10.
Something else that can have a negative influence on the purity of a Christian’s heart is a distorted, immoral view of sex. The fact that premarital, extramarital, and homosexual relations are considered by many to be normal could corrupt the heart of a Christian. A person who gives in to sexual immorality might hypocritically lead a double life, hiding the sin. That certainly would not reflect “purity of heart.”
Gabriele was baptized when he was 15 years old and immediately began pioneering. Later, however, he started spending time with unwholesome associates at nightclubs. (Ps. 26:4) This was the beginning of an immoral and hypocritical lifestyle, and he had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation. Such discipline from Jehovah made him think deeply. Gabriele remembers: “I started to do all the things that I had never taken seriously before. I read the Bible every day, trying to hear what Jehovah was really saying, and I carefully studied the theocratic publications. I saw how rewarding and satisfying personal study can be and how much strength can be derived from Bible reading and fervent prayer.” This helped Gabriele abandon his immoral conduct and reestablish his relationship with Jehovah.
Now Gabriele is once again serving as a pioneer, along with his wife. What happened to him confirms how a study of the Bible and publications from “the faithful and discreet slave” can help a person have a pure heart and reject immorality.—Matt. 24:45; Ps. 143:10.
“Purity of Heart” When Under Trial
Pressure from opposers, economic hardship, and serious illness have weighed on some of God’s servants. On occasion, their hearts too have been affected negatively. Even King David went through such an experience: “My spirit faints away within me; in the midst of me my heart shows itself numbed.” (Ps. 143:4) What enabled him to overcome such moments? David called to mind God’s dealings with His servants and how he himself had experienced deliverance. He meditated on what Jehovah had done for the sake of His great name. David kept himself concerned with God’s works. (Ps. 143:5) In a similar manner, meditating on our Creator and all that he has done and continues to do for us will help us even when we are under trial.
When we have, or feel that we have, been wronged, we could become bitter. Constantly thinking about the episode could result in our having negative feelings about our brothers. We might close up, isolating ourselves and showing little interest in others. Would such a reaction, however, be in line with our desire to have “purity of heart”? Clearly, the goal of having such a heart condition involves our dealings with and response to our Christian brothers.
In a world that is ever more corrupt and morally degraded, we as true Christians stand out because we love “purity of heart.” Our life is influenced positively as we experience the inner peace that results from doing God’s will. Above all, we enjoy an intimate friendship with our Creator, Jehovah God, who loves those who are “clean in heart.” (Ps. 73:1) Yes, we can be included among the ones who will be happy because, as Jesus promised, “they will see God,” as He acts in behalf of those who love “purity of heart.”—Matt. 5:8.