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Friday, January 22, 2010

"Clean Hands"

As a subscriber to Consumer Reports, I get occasional emails from the company.  This morning's note from Jim Guest, president of the company, caught my eye.  The subject line read, "Clean hands."  Guest asserts that "nearly 100,000 Americans die each year from injections they get while in their local hospital for something else--the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing every other day."  His email is a call for consumers like me to call upon the government to make infection rates public while pressuring hospitals to be more vigilant in their procedures.
This is neither a call for bigger government nor a charge that hospitals are all unsanitary.  Certainly, as in any industry, the medical field is not harmed by reasonable regulations and some facilities undoubtedly need to be more fastidious.  But, it was the title that grabbed me.
Spiritually, we are called to have "clean hands."  When we do not, we can have a potentially, eternally negative impact on the lives of others.  Consider this more carefully.
MORALLY, WE NEED CLEAN HANDS.  James 4:8 urges the readers to cleanse their hands.  Context warns against being intimate with worldliness (4), guilty of pride (6), submissive to Satan (7), judgmental of brethren (11-12), and overconfident of earthly plans and priorities (13ff).  When our deeds reveal to others that we have "dirty hands," we hurt our influence with the lost and the saved!
EVANGELISTICALLY, WE NEED CLEAN HANDS.  Paul could tell the elders of Ephesus that he was "free from the blood of all men" (Acts 20:26).  This seems to be an allusion to the prophet Ezekiel's warning that if God's spokesman did not warn the wicked, that one's blood would figuratively be on the messenger's hands (3:18,20).  Paul said he had not shrunk back from declaring the whole purpose of God (Acts 20:27).  When God hands us opportunities to teach the lost and we shun or ignore them, we need our hands cleaned!
DOCTRINALLY, WE NEED CLEAN HANDS.  This same context in Acts 20 seems to apply to the content of Paul's teaching.  He did not avoid the unpleasant and unpopular subjects.  He certainly taught in love (cf. Eph. 4:15), but he could face the Lord knowing he had declared the "whole purpose of God."  We cannot mislead others living in darkness into thinking they are in the light.  That impacts the cleanliness of our "hands."
The work of our hands will be examined.  Pilate tried to clean with a basin hands that could have been busy doing the right, courageous thing (cf. Mat. 27:24).  We may try to rationalize or reason what can only be cleansed by doing what is right, but only through obedient faith do we clean our hands!  Neal Pollard

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