This is called a “tough topic” for a reason.
If you’ve come from a religious type of background (or even if you haven’t) you’ve heard about the concept of being defiled. It’s the concept that certain activities make your soul or heart dirty, and it’s often connected to sexual activities. People that come under the belief that they’ve been defiled often have a very hard time sexually expressing themselves without feelings of guilt and condemnation. They feel as if they can’t ever achieve the best that God has for them because of things that have happened to them in the past: sexual molestation, rape, pre-marital sexual activity, etc.
This is about hope, however. Believe it or not, Scripture tackles the subject of defilement with much more beauty and grace than many give it credit for.
There are two different types of defilement: what people perceive to be defilement and true defilement.
Scripturally, the difference between the two is found in the Master’s words. Read this parable closely.
“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”…
So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”” (Matthew 15: 1-11, 16-20 NKJV)
This argument, spawned by the subject of bread, was over a deeper subject than mere food. Jesus and the Pharisees were having a disagreement over perceived defilement and true defilement. Here’s the simple version of their conversation:
Pharisees: “Hey! Don’t you know that eating with dirty hands makes your soul dirty?!”
Jesus: “The soul is deeper than that, guys. What goes into you doesn’t defile you, what comes out of you defiles you. You’re teaching the doctrines of men like they’re commandments of God.”
Do you see how important this concept is?
What’s been done to you does not defile you. What you do defiles you.
If you’ve been molested, raped, abused, or otherwise sinned-against sexually, you most likely feel defiled or dirty as a result. According to Scripture, you’re suffering from perceived defilement: you’ve picked up a false idea and taken it on as truth. You’ve been lied to and you’re suffering from guilt that should not be yours.
However, if you’ve sinned against others – done anything on that list that the Master mentioned, (fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies, etc.) – then yes, you’ve been truly defiled. You’ve been defiled by your own actions.
Ready for a news flash? Everyone’s been truly defiled in that way at some point in their lives. That’s the difference between perceived defilement and true defilement. Now we’ve established the difference, we can dig into the treatment of these conditions.
Yes, there IS a treatment!
First off, the Master called perceived defilement for the ugliness that it is: a lie. It’s a false teaching that hinders worship and creates bondage. So how does someone combat a lie? They learn the truth! What is truth? In John 17:17 Jesus said that God’s word is truth, a special kind of truth that sanctifies (makes clean). This truth also liberates (see John 8:31-32 NKJV).
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The way to become clean and free from false teaching is by learning the truth. Your perceived defilement is not real, it is an illusion that binds you with a guilty conscience. In contrast, what is real? True defilement is real, it is ugly, and it binds just as badly as false teaching. Thankfully, Scripture both defines what true defilement is, and it reveals the cure, in the same breath. John 8 continues in verses 34-36:
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36 NKJV)
What is the answer to true defilement? Grace is the answer.
God doesn’t want you to be a slave to sin. He wants you to be His child. He wants to be able to wash you clean. He wants you to accept and abide in His love. If you stop doing the things that defile you, and you seek God’s forgiveness, He has promised that He will grant it, gladly. (Luke 15)
Now…all that grace talk may all be well and good. But somewhere, deep inside, most of us have a problem. We don’t feel clean. In our head, we may accept the facts, but in our heart, we still feel guilty, we still suffer from the memories, we doubt. This is where you have to dig into prayer, because this is where faith comes in. To be able to accept grace, you have to trust the God who gives it. And trust is a daily struggle. It requires for us to believe that God is enough. He is strong enough, loving enough, kind enough. When we underestimate God’s power to forgive, then we doubt who He is.
When you feel yourself slipping into this depressing swamp of anxiety, I encourage you to read this Scripture verse. Commit it to mind and heart if you have to. Keep it ever before your eyes.
Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”
Lamentations 3:19-24 NKJV
Truth is the answer to lies. Grace is the answer to condemnation. Faith is the answer to doubt. Can you obtain this truth, grace and faith on your own? No. It can only be received by seeking your heavenly Father. Thankfully, He greatly enjoys giving His children good gifts. (Matthew 7:9-11)
I’ll leave you with one last verse.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus…
And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7&19 NKJV)