One of the strange new ideas that scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg brought to the table of religion was that self-examination and inner purging is necessary before we can obtain the proper innocence by which the good we do in the world becomes genuine good and untainted.
We often do good deeds unto others for the sake of honors and reputation. In order to determine what our true motives are, we must look deeply within ourselves and look at the trajectory of our actions. What do we ultimately intend? Are we seeking to promote ourselves, and our status in the world? Or, are we interested purely in the happiness of others? Only the latter constitutes spiritual innocence and humility.
While any good we do for others is certainly appreciated and beneficial, without observing our own intentions, these outward acts of kindness might provide nothing for our own spiritual self-perfection. According to Swedenborg, the Lord God can only infill our hearts and minds with genuine love to the same degree that we bravely identify and remove the “dirt” we find hiding within us.
This is why the Lord God asked us to clean the inside of the cup.
Many people falsely believe that such a step is unnecessary—since God can simply add more and more love to our lives from divine mercy and grace. Or if need be, “cleanse us” as well. However, God cannot remove something negative in our hearts and minds without our expressed permission. And, we cannot give this permission with a blanket statement or general acknowledgement that we are sinners.
Rather, we must do a personal inventory of what is in our spiritual house (heart and mind). Yes, God certainly knows what our flaws are, but needs us to “flag” which particular flaws we want removed from our lives—by both identifying them and resisting them. This inventory is the essence of our spiritual responsibility and duty in God’s Universe.
The problem in much of modern society is that as soon as someone begins sensing or suspecting something unflattering about themselves they rush to find comfort, either from ingesting various liquid or solid substances or finding friends and priests who will buttress their self-esteem. However, dealing directly with these unflattering revelations actually helps God to help us.
The Lord did not just come into the world to comfort and hug us—but to expose us.