I grew up as a tomboy. I wish I had a dollar for each time my mother called out when she heard me coming in as I banged the screen door, “Julie, go wash your hands.” I’d be retired by now and lounging on a Carribean island! I hated to take the time to wash my hands. What as a little dirt? She’d cluck her teeth and say, “Clean hands make a clean heart.” Sure enough, when it was time for me to be the mother of a little boy who liked to be outside, I became just like her, calling out each time he came in the house, “Go wash your hands.”
Clean hands not only ward off diseases, they are a sign of respect. Who wants to shake hands with someone who has dirty hands? In order to establish a right relationship, before we want to touch someone else, we’d prefer they be clean, right? God requests the same from us.
Remember Pilate washed his hands can claimed himself innocent of Jesus’ death? That is where we get the saying, “I wash my hands of this matter.” Ceremonial washing was common in the ancient world. You wanted to appear clean before God. In many denominations, before preparing the Communion at the altar, ministers and priests still do that. They use a lavabo bowl and towel. Lavabo means wash.
Before we come to God’s altar (into His presence), we must be washed of our sins. That is why confession in our prayer life is so vastly important. It cleans the slate. Christ, through His sacrifice, can wash away our sins, but we need to present them. he acts as the soap, but we must stick our hands under the faucet, so to speak. If we don’t confess, if we do not approach God with a clean heart, He will know, and so will we. True, honest and meaningful relationships cannot be based in lies or hidden secrets. In fact, deep down, we know we cannot hide anything from God. Our unconfessed wrongdoings become the 6 ton gorrilla in the room we are trying to ignore. It’s like having dirty hands. We want to hide them behind our back.
So, before you approach the altar of God on you knees, go wash your spiritual hands, i.e., your heart. Cleanliness is next to godliness, right? My mother always said that, too.