"Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you."
Very cool story. There was a magician in Samaria (outside of Israel) named Simon who had "wowed" and amazed the people with his sleight of hand & tricks of illusion. He proclaimed himself to be great, and everyone spoke very highly of him (they even attributed God's power to being with him!). The apostle Philip came to Samaria one day - preaching, teaching, and healing in Jesus' Name. People believed, were baptized, and God did amazing things through Philip. Even Simon was impressed and he began hanging around Philip & Co. As word spread, Peter & John came to help Philip and they started laying hand on the new believers and empowering them with the gift of the Holy Spirit! Simon got really excited and offered the apostles money if they'd lay hands on him, so he could impart the Holy Spirit to others, too!
Now, it could be that Simon was truly being altruistic - thinking of the incredible good he could share with others if he was graced with the Holy Spirit. BUT... the disciples sensed a different motive: Greed. Power. Adulation. Did Simon think he could "franchise" God's power by giving the disciples silver to gain the Holy Spirit? It's not for sale, they said. Period.
What intrigued me today was Peter's response to Simon: "Repent... and pray that... if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you." Now granted, according to the law the fact that Simon had verbally offered a bribe (if you'd call it that), means he'd moved beyond intent to action. However, too often today people comment on how what really matters is one's actions - did one carry out a good or bad act? Jesus spoke about the condition of one's heart (re: lust/adultery, anger/murder, etc.). Peter echoes that here. Our intentions - whether we act on them or not - need to be holy.
Wow. I'm not wealthy magician able to bribe people of influence to get my way. But then again, there are, from time to time, intention in my heart that definitely need God's forgiveness - even if I never act out on those intentions! As we near the celebration of Easter, I think I need to spend a bit more time in personal repentance - heart repentance! For I truly want the intent of MY heart to be holy. AMEN.