Blessed are the pure in heart, because they shall see God.
What Is Purity of Heart?
This is another of The Beatitudes that I thought I understood until I examined it more closely as part of a whole—as the second of four in a set that was more horizontal than vertical. I used to think of it as being pure in heart in regard to my love for God. Kierkegaard said that purity of heart was to will one thing. I assumed that this beatitude was about aligning my heart totally with God’s. And in a sense, that is still true, but I see it working in a different way than before. I am convinced that the purity of heart Jesus is calling for here is a purity of heart towards other people in our lives.
Too often we tend to view other people in our lives either as stepping stones or as barriers to us getting the things in life that we think we need to survive and thrive. We tend to value people on the basis of what we can get out of them for ourselves. It is subtle. We are most often unaware of it at a conscious level. But at a gut level, most of our relationships tend to be self-centered even when we are doing things for other people or for God, operating from a primal urge to meet our basic needs of security and significance. We are such a mess of mixed ambitions and expectations concerning others.
The way it works out in relationships is that we tend to live with hidden agendas for relationships and we seek to manipulate others to get what we want or to behave the way that we desire them to behave. When they fail us or disappoint us, we get exasperated and try harder to manipulate, or we abandon them and go on to a more likely prospect. (The difference between motivation and manipulation may be subtle, but it seems to boil down to whether or not we are attempting to determine the outcome rather than leaving the other person free to choose for themselves.)
What if we could simply love people for who they are, without nagging expectations, without hidden agendas, refusing to manipulate with our reactions or rewards, with a purity of heart that honestly desired for them to experience the fullness of life that God has designed for them, but on their own terms with God? Too often we send the message, “I love you, and I have a wonderful plan for your life!”
Jesus said that the pure in heart see God. I believe that when we begin to love others wholeheartedly and without our own agenda, we begin to see God at work in their lives doing amazing things. An old song from youth group said, “And I love you with the love of the Lord, yes I love you with the love of the Lord. I can see in you the glory of my king, and I love you with the love of the Lord.” And when we do, we will see God at work more in our own lives as well.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the eighth post in a series exploring the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. Read the last post on “The Beatitudes: Blessed Are the Merciful.”
The series is based on Dr. Bill Fowler’s Gilhousen Lecture given July 14, 2020 at YTI. Watch the entire lecture on Facebook here.