A Pure Heart

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.

—1 Timothy 1:5-7

In the Epistle of 1 Timothy, Paul (although it is disputed as to whether Paul actually wrote this letter) is writing to Timothy, who was Paul’s companion and missionary partner. The author of this epistle writes to Timothy concerning the organization of the church and Timothy’s own leadership within the body. Major themes include the use of The Law, warnings against false doctrine such as Encratism (an ascetic 2nd-century sect of Christians who forbade marriage and counseled abstinence from meat), instructions for prayer, roles of women in the church, qualifications for leaders of the church, and the treatment of widows, elders, masters, youth, and church members in general.

In 1 Timothy 1:5-7, Timothy is told that we should “love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith.” Matthew 5:8 tells us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” but what does it mean to be “pure in heart.” The Greek word for “pure” in Matthew 5:8 is katharos. It means to be “clean, blameless, unstained from guilt.” Being pure in heart involves having a singleness of heart toward God. A pure heart has no hypocrisy, no deceit, no duplicity, and no hidden motives. The pure heart is marked by transparency and an uncompromising desire to please God in all things. It is more than an external purity of behavior; it is an internal purity of soul. 

A pure heart serves God with the whole heart. We must lovingly serve God with our whole hearts. A pure heart is willing to come under trial. This does not mean Christians should go looking for trials and tribulation, but when we place ourselves under the authority of Scripture, our sins and rebelliousness against God are revealed. At that moment, we have the choice to confess and repent or continue living in rebellion. A man of pure heart dares not act in the least against his conscience. Pursuing holiness means living with principles, being convinced of them, and following them. We must make sure those convictions are drawn from God’s Word and not merely a matter of our personal taste. A pure heart is a suspicious heart. A hypocrite suspects others of sin but has charitable thoughts of himself. The sincere Christian with a pure heart has charitable thoughts of others and suspects himself of sin. A pure heart performs holy duties in a holy way. When we do things in the name of God, we must be pure of heart and have no ulterior motives.

Too often we see Christians who have political motives, monetary motives, or power motives. If we have motives that are centered upon a pure heart that believes in God’s love, then we are doing what God commands of us, but if we stray from this because we have motives, which are often fed by fear, then we are not doing God’s will but the will of man. First Timothy 5:6-7 tells us that “some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” In other words, some have ulterior motives and the desire to tell us what God wants, but they are not paying attention to God’s Word. They have strayed from the Good News of Jesus Christ, and they are deceiving us for their own personal gain.

Most often these same people teach hatred of others, whether that is the LGBTQ+ community or people of other faiths. In the United States, many of these who “have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law,” condemn all those who believe differently from their narrow beliefs of fear. Most of them these days are political conservatives and consider all liberals and progressives to be godless. First Timothy 5 tells us that we should take care of the less fortunate, that we should help them, and be charitable. Yet, when liberals and progressives want to help the less fortunate, feed the hungry, provide relief for the sick and infirmed, or require a vaccine to save the lives of fellow Americans, they decry that their rights are being infringed upon. Most conservatives claim to be Christian but when it comes to following God’s commandments, they pick and choose which they want to follow and which they want to ignore. If we are going to follow God’s Word, we cannot be selective in what Words we follow.

We need to listen to the needs of one another. We must look out for our neighbors and help uplift others. The purpose of listening to others is that we all would be filled with God’s love and grow in our faith. It is important to make sure the teachings we hear help us to grow in our faith and leave us with a clear conscience. What we allow to influence us makes all the difference in the condition of our spiritual life. We cannot hang on the words of false teachers who proclaim to follow God’s Word in one breath and do the opposite of God’s Word in their actions. Matthew 23:28 warns us of this, when Jesus says, “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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