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Today: 23 January 2020


Pure in heart: that's a toughie

First published 02/03/2014

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Of all the beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5, verses 1-12, I find this the most challenging.

Sure, sometimes I’m poor in spirit, and I have mourned. Just occasionally, I’ve been meek, and I’ve hungered for righteousness, in myself and others, many times. Once or twice I’ve been required to be merciful (and I’m sure I could do it again). I’ve been a peacemaker, and I’ve been persecuted a few times - in minor ways - for doing or believing the right thing.

But pure in heart? Me?

Not only does this sound incredibly difficult, but ‘blessed are the pure in heart’ suggests a continuous state of being; not something you do, from time to time, but who you are. Permanently. All day, every day. It sounds like an impossible task.

And it is. We aren’t perfect; only Jesus was. And Jesus knew, when he said this, that it was an impossibility for us. But that doesn’t mean we can’t aim for it, even if we know we can’t make it. 

St Paul knew this: in the book of Romans, he said: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

But he also said, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

It’s about trying, and keeping on trying. We know, in our heart of hearts, that we’re going to have nasty thoughts about dangerous drivers, and friends who let us down, and colleagues who step on us to get ahead. Even worse, the impure thoughts in our hearts will lead us to impure actions: hurting people, crimes large and small; making the wrong choice in moral dilemmas. 

The most important thing God wants us to do is love him; the second is to love other people. Impure thoughts and actions are usually directed towards other people, so that’s not good. Not only are we hurting God’s beloved people, but we’re failing to do what he asked.

And since God knows the secrets of our hearts, each impure thought we have (and each wrong thing we do as a consequence) must feel like God’s having pins stuck in him. After all, he’s so pure that seeing our impurities must really hurt. So the purer we are, the less pain we cause God. So I suppose it all boils down to this: do we care if we hurt him?

So the pure in heart ‘will see God’. I think this works in several ways:

  • The more we’re able to refine our thoughts and actions, the more we are able to imitate Christ
  • The more we do that, the better the response we will get from other people; thus, the more we will see Christ in them
  • The purer our thoughts and actions (like really serving the poor, which Jesus cares so much about) the closer we get to the Kingdom of God
  • Keeping on trying to be pure in heart, even if we know we’ll never be perfect, is what St Paul said: winning the prize of getting to heaven, and then really seeing God!

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Pray: Lord God, only you are truly pure. But help me to be a reflection of you. Amen.

Think about: Why do you think that this, of all the Beatitudes, is the one that enables us to see God?

Challenge: Are you going to keep pressing forward to win the prize... or fall at the first hurdle, because you know purity of heart is an impossibility?

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