These are extraordinary times and our behavioral patterns have been changed in ways that we least expected.
In far-flung corners of the world, “sanitize” is a word that even the least educated now use daily. No thanks to the coronavirus.
I had been using hand sanitizers before the pandemic, although sparingly. But now I can’t see myself going about errands without the use of sanitizers. I have a mini bottle in my pocket, at least two 236ml sized bottles in my car and a few within the house. Once in a public place, my first instinct is to look for sanitizers or wipes at the property entrance.
Such is the nature of our world now that I believe many people can relate to this experience. When there are no sanitizers, washing of hands is the other act of preventing the virus from spreading. For many people, this deed has become second nature and the times have revealed the extent we will go to protect ourselves from Covid-19.
How I wish we applied the same amount of determination, presence of mind, and will-power to cleansing our hearts’ thoughts and infusing in our soul greater love for one another and reverence to the Almighty God. I have used the example above to draw attention to how we have come to fear and respect an invisible virus but do not exert the same diligence when it comes to God’s things.
While the mental conditioning brought about by the global pandemic is useful for taking care of our physical bodies, we tend to fall short when it comes to protecting our hearts and soul. We cannot meet up because we are weak in the flesh and cannot, by our strength, stand against evil. A lot of Christians wrestle with this reality. We know what is at stake. We understand that we run the risk of being consumed in iniquity without a pure heart and thus separated from God.
Indeed, we were born into sin, but that is history because Jesus was born into flesh and made the ultimate sacrifice to deliver us from evil. Nonetheless, we still stray from Him and find ourselves in the dark abyss of immorality. How do we guard or tame a heart described in Jeremiah 17:9 as being desperately wicked? A few suggestions will suffice.
If you haven’t made this decision already, then all attempts to cleanse oneself is an exercise in futility. The first and most critical step to having a clean spiritual heart is accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you have in the past and found yourself disengaged from Him, then you need first to retrace your steps and re-engage by accepting Him into your life once more. The book of 2 Corinthians 5:17 says
“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
On this promise, we find hope and it is on this premise that we seek the continual renewal of the mind come what may.
The next step is to take responsibility when we fall and seek forgiveness from God with a contrite heart. He is faithful and righteous to forgive and cleanse us from all sins, no matter how terrible they are. David’s regret is a perfect example. He had gravely offended God and his joy and peace of mind got cut off. He begged God for forgiveness in sobriety and even took it a step further by committing to preach the Word to those who break the law.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. (Psalm 51:10-13).
He cried out from a place of deep sorrow. He feared that the holy spirit would depart from him. Just like David, we can similarly ask for forgiveness. The good news is that seeking remission for sin has been made easier in that, those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, have the indwelling of the holy spirit. It will not depart from them but patiently waits for reconciliation.
To remain in the place of obedience, it is essential to develop a deeper relationship with God by immersing yourself in the Bible. The Bible is the manual for daily living and has answers to all situations and challenges. There are lots of study materials in print and electronic form in the public space. Find the one that is easy for you to comprehend and make it a daily habit in your quiet moment to read and apply what is in the devotionals.
Join a Bible-believing church that will help you grow spiritually. A church community will also help you meet people through whom you can learn. It’s also the best place to find mentors. Don’t just sit in the pew but be an active member by volunteering to provide one service or the other. The more time you spend in the presence of the Lord, the less time you have for unhealthy thoughts and activities.
Finally, guard the heart through continuous prayer. This act is the most incredible tonic to everyday life and medicine for boosting the heart’s immune system against evil. I like the prayer by Thomas A Kempis culled from one of his devotionals – Imitation of Christ;
Strengthen me, O God, by the grace of Thy Holy Spirit. Give me virtue to be strengthened with might in the inner man, and to free my heart from all fruitless care and trouble, and that I be not drawn away by various desires after any things whatsoever, whether of little value or great, but that I may look upon all as passing away, and myself as passing away with them; because there is no profit under the sun, and all is vanity and vexation of spirit. (1) Oh how wise is he that considereth thus!
That prayer is apt for the unpredictable times we find ourselves.
So, hand sanitizers and washing of hands, albeit figurative in this context, are skin deep and temporal. However, cleansing of the heart through the appropriation of God’s Word daily sets one up for eternal gain. The global pandemic and the ensuing lockdown presents the perfect opportunity for individual introspection. Let’s not be like Pontius Pilate, whose act of washing hands was superficial, but like David, whose genuine remorse for sins committed made him a “man after God’s heart.”
If we channeled the same attention and attitude with which we try to avert the virus into spiritually cleansing, we would free our souls from all fruitless care and trouble.