When my husband read the cleanliness is next to Godliness article, he liked it, but he pointed out I hadn’t emphasized why cleanliness should be next to Godliness at all. It’s true. I didn’t want the post to be too long and I wanted to keep the focus of the article undiluted….but it’s been waiting and it’s been on my mind.
Why is cleanliness next to Godliness at all? Such physical, mundane tasks…why do they matter? We can argue that “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). That is true, but there is an incredible emphasis on cleanliness and a tie to meaningful cleanliness throughout the scriptures.
In the law of Moses, ritual cleanliness is a sign of the people’s fidelity to Yahweh (collegeville bible commentary). It was also meant as a way of separating the children of Israel from others. Very specific methods were proscribed to become clean…including washing with ash and water. “beauty for ashes” again comes to mind. It was meant as a reminder that only through the sacrifice of Christ can we be clean. It also meant that people in worship spent a lot of time cleaning.
In the New Testament the Lord challenges those around Him to remember the purpose of Old Testament cleanliness, and made it clear that inner cleanliness was more important. Matthew 23:26 says “You blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” Note that He makes it clear what should be the priority, and that the outside should be clean as well.
Let’s look through a bunch of biblical references quickly in relation to cleaning:
“he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor” (Matthew 3:12)
“But when you go without food, put oil on your head and make your face clean” (Matthew 6:17)
“Then he says, ‘I will return to my house that I left;’ and he comes and finds it unoccupied, swept clean, and in good order” (Matthew 12:44)
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every ‘branch’ that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:2)
There are many scriptures related to cleanliness and healing :
Go and make yourself clean in the bath of Siloam (the sense of the name is, Sent). So he went away and, after washing, came back able to see (John 9:7)
The man who is named Jesus put earth mixed with water on my eyes, and said to me, Go and make yourself clean in Siloam: so I went away and, after washing, am now able to see (John 9:11)
God will decide what is clean: “A voice came to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.”
John 13:14 If then I, the Lord and the Master, have made your feet clean, it is right for you to make one another’s feet clean
Peter said, I will never let my feet be washed by you, never. Jesus said in answer, If I do not make you clean you have no part with me (John 13:8)
Who, through the purpose of God, have been made holy by the Spirit, disciples of Jesus, made clean by his blood: May you have grace and peace in full measure (1 Peter 1:2)
Blessed are those who wash their robes clean, that they may have a right to the Tree of Life, and may go through the gates into the city (Revelations 22:14)
http://topicalbible.org/c/clean.htm There were 298 references to clean or cleanliness.
What stands out to me is this. Of all the titles of Christ :Savior, redeemer, our shepherd, Son of God…an obvious role of Christ is to clean. By His blood we are clean. Christ cleans. He also very literally washed the disciples feet shortly before He died. It was one of their last memories of Him: kneeling on the floor before them washing their feet. Christ was not above cleaning.
Cleanliness is part of our preparation to meet Him. It allows us to feel greater peace and to be ready to serve. It is easier to pray, read scriptures and worship him when we and our surroundings are already clean. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10) when we are surrounded by cleanliness. Isn’t it really much easier? haven’t you felt the difference in your mind when your home is clean?
It is true that being a Christian is messy work, but a Christian doesn’t leave it a mess. A Christian, cleans. The good Samaritan did not leave the beaten man dirty. The father of the prodigal welcomed his messy son home and hugged him and cleaned him up.
“Order is a part of reverence, so is cleanliness” http://lds.org/ensign/1976/10/reverence?lang=eng&query=cleanliness
Part of the purpose of this blog is to consider what about me needs to change, be cleansed, so that I clean? I’ll be thinking about that…plenty of thinking time while I do the dishes 😉
Christ cleans. Another reason to love him.