Søren Kierkegaard wrote a book—Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. The title prompts curiosity and wonder. How am I divided in my will and actions, and what should I be willing and doing?
Only One was completely pure of heart and willed one thing from beginning to end—Christ. He desired his Father’s will and only did what He said. As a believer, God wants my words and actions to agree with Scripture. As I say yes to God, I join with Christ in willing one thing. This, however, requires regular repentance, and that’s not a bad thing—even if repentance has a reputation for being painful or “hyper spiritual.”
Several years ago I worked as a writer/editor in the publishing department of a fundraising company. The company hired a young man to help part-time with printing and shipping, and he worked in my department. He seldom bathed or washed his clothes, and he smelled—no he stank. I avoided him. I spoke as needed during the day. “Hello, how are you?…Glad to hear it. Could you make one-thousand copies of this, please?” I said from a slight distance.
I knew a little about his background. His parents had been missionaries but were now divorced. His father committed adultery then abandoned his wife and several children. There wasn’t enough money, and he was working to help his family with basic needs. Everyone was depressed, justifiably so. It was dreadful. Nevertheless, his odor offended, and I felt judgment not compassion. Even worse, I didn’t see my sin.
One day I did. My words and my heart weren’t agreeing with one another; I said I loved others but didn’t. I focused on the odor rather than love, but I couldn’t change my own heart. I needed help.
I had a Christian friend, Sue, who worked with me. I decided I’d do what the Bible says, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. (James 5:16 NASB) I asked her to pray for me; I wanted purity of heart and will.
As I confessed my repulsion, judgment, and lack of mercy, God did something in my heart. I wept over sin, and then I laughed as love for this young man coursed through me. I never felt the same about him. I became genuinely concerned for his welfare. I brought food to share, talked with him, and prayed for him. By repenting, I entered into the overflowing love of God and became purer as I willed His will.
The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. II Corinthians 7:9b-12 (MSG)