By Mark Sandford

Is it correct to say that our bitter root expectancies can "defile" others? Jesus said, "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean'" (Matthew 15:11). If what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, then this would mean that nothing others do to us can make us unclean. What comes from our hearts — our sinful reactions to others' bitter root expectancies — makes us unclean.

We who do inner healing have sometimes used the word, "defile," to describe what happens when our expectancies exert a powerful tug on another person. We do not believe this can overcome another's free will, although it can indeed be very difficult to resist. For instance, I can expect others to reject me, and others might feel that tugging at them. But my expectancy can't force them to reject me; it can only tempt them to. They are responsible for whether or not they will give in to that temptation. We have sometimes called this tug, "defilement," and the use of the same word for this concept and the biblical one can be confusing. For that reason, as I revised my family's books, I replaced "defile," with other words and phrases. New wording states, for instance, that expectancies can exert a "powerful tug" on others, and can thus "sorely tempt" them to sin, but not that they can defile them by "causing" them to sin.

One might protest that Hebrews 12:15 says that our bitter roots can indeed "defile many"; but Paul, who wrote Hebrews, would never say anything that contradicted the teachings of Jesus. In light of Jesus' teaching that only what comes out of one's own heart can defile oneself, we must interpret Paul to mean that our bitter roots “defile” by tempting others into sinning of their own volition, not that they cause others to sin. If we do use the word, “defile,” we need to keep that meaning in mind, and be clear to others that this is what we mean by it.