Complainers and judgmentalists make the most intolerable company. Who can remain in comfortable proximity with someone rehearsing aloud an endless stream of grievances, or directing scorn – not always moral, but often enough – at the shortcomings of others, however much it might be deserved? Of such noisy horns of self-righteousness, whatever their other merits, one eventually begins to dread the sound of their knock on the door, to find reasons for declining their invitation and excuses for escaping their conversation. All the more so as one’s own nature tends towards forbearance and forgiveness.

And now recall that God is love, and that love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. And recall that God knows the heart. Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus instructs us to cleanse our hearts, first and foremost? How else could God tolerate our company?

The problem is that our interior life is not under our control. Our conscious experience arises from depths of personality to which it is impossible for us to descend, from foundations of our life which we did not lay, and which we cannot change.

It is instead the work of the Holy Spirit to reach those depths, and to pursue the cleansing and fortifying work there to be accomplished. That is, in fact, the accomplishment of Christ, to enable God’s Holy Spirit to tolerate and do its work in the company of the sinful human heart.

A sure sign that Christ’s Spirit is working in us and making progress is when we find ourselves, in our outward behavior but much more importantly in the inward theater of our consciousness, making a joyful noise unto the Lord.

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