God’s Word Makes Our Hearts Pure

Pentecost 17 Wednesday

1 Timothy 1:5

“The chief sum of the commandment is this: Love from a pure heart and from a good conscience and from sincere faith.”

Yet how does the heart become pure? Answer: It cannot become pure in a better way than by the highest purity–God’s Word. Grasp this Word by your heart and follow it; then your heart becomes pure. In this instance, place this word before you, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Matthew 22:39, and follow it; then you will see whether it will not wash it clean and eradicate everything there is in your heart in terms of selfishness and self-love. For when he commands you to love your neighbor, he does not exclude anyone, friend or foe, good or evil. For even if he is a bad man who does bad things to you, he does not therefore lose the title neighbor but remains nonetheless your flesh and flood and is comprehended in the word, “Love your neighbor.” This is why I say that when you look at your neighbor in this way, as the Word teaches and directs you, your heart will become pure and your love honest, lest you make a special, false distinction in the person or look at him any different than someone who is pious and does good to you. It is true enough that the good person is more pleasant and, naturally, everyone is attracted to him and is afraid of wild, evil people. Yet this is still flesh and blood and not yet true Christian love. For a Christian is not to draw his love from the person, as worldly love does, e.g., a young man from a pretty girl and a greedy person from money and possessions. All this is drawn or borrowed love which outwardly sticks to the good it sees in a person; it lasts no longer than the good is there and it can enjoy this good. Yet true love is to be a love that wells up, that flows from inside the heart, like a fresh brook that always flows and cannot be stopped or run dry. This love goes like this: “I do not love you because you are good or evil; for I do not draw my love from your goodness as from an alien well, but I draw it from my own well, namely, from the Word which is planted in my heart, which reads: ‘Love your neighbor.'” From there love flows abundantly and is open to everyone who needs it; and it affects both, the good and the bad, friend and foe…This is how it goes when love comes from God’s Word, from a pure heart and sincere faith; these must be the wellspring that has to be present prior to all such things. You can see this in all stations in life where everyone is to carry out the office he has been given and practice works of love.

St. Louis ed., 9:893-894.

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