Pure in Heart

Today we looked at the 6th Beatitude "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" at our worship gathering.   Below is the text of the message and the 4 discussion questions.  Feel free to comment, share, disagree, etc.... "So we are getting close to ending our time looking at Vintage Christianity through the lens of the Beatitudes found in the 1st book in the New Testament (which is about 2/3 of the way through the Bible) which is Matthew 5:1-10.  We have covered 5 of the eight beatitudes the last few weeks.  We have covered the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and last week we talked about the merciful.  The final two deal with peacemakers and the persecuted.  But today we are discussing the sixth beatitude found in Matthew 5:8.

The sixth beatitude is “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.”  Now I don’t know about you, but this beatitude has given me pause more than any other one.  I think the reason being that when I look at my life, this is the one that I probably struggle with the most.  I definitely don’t think of myself as pure in heart.  So maybe this one is just one that is for another time and another place….oh if it were only that simple.  The first thing we need to realize about this idea of being pure in heart doesn’t mean and need not be thought of as morally perfect…which none of us are anyway.  This should lighten our load a little bit, but still should make us realize that all of us, no matter where we are on our spiritual journey, have a ways to go in regards to being pure in heart.

So if the idea of being pure in heart doesn’t mean morally perfect, what exactly does it mean?  And what does it mean that the pure in heart will see God?  Where and when will they see God?  Let’s spend some time talking about the words pure in heart, and the idea of seeing God.

If we were to look at these words in the Ancient Greek language (which the New Testament was written in) the phrase pure in heart has the idea of straightness, honesty, and clarity.  Or another way to put it would be the idea of single-heartedness in motivation, in thought, and in focus.  Or as Jesus put it to Satan in Matthew 4, “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."  To be pure in heart means going after God with all that you are, all that you have, and with your entire self.  Nothing is held back.  Your life is given as an offering to him.  Your talents, abilities, and gifts that you have been given are given back to him to use at his discretion and for the building of the kingdom.  Your finances are given back to God so that he can use them for the work of the kingdom.  You are focused on loving God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength and you put that into action by loving your neighbor as yourself.  Or as Søren Kierkegaard once said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.”

Another way of looking at this idea of being pure in heart, I believe connects very well with what we at Veritas are all about, and in fact, is part of the reason that we even chose the name Veritas for the church.  It also means having pure thoughts and genuine motives.  You are authentically who you are, and what you say and how you live your life are in agreement.  A person who has a pure heart is sincere and genuine.  Veritas, for those of you who don’t know, means truth, real, authentic, and genuine…all of which tie into being pure in heart.  When you are pure in heart you are full of truth in all the areas of your life (your speech, your attitudes, your values, your beliefs, etc..).  When you are pure in heart you are real, authentic and genuine.

Now the other word in this statement that we need to look at is the word heart.  It doesn’t mean the muscle that beats between 60-80 beats per minute.  In the Hebrew understanding of heart, it means the entire body, the mind, the personality, the will, as well as the emotions.  It is the seat of decision making.  It is the seat of thinking.  In our understanding it would be like putting together the heart and the mind.  So that we are called to be pure in our emotions, our attitudes, our loves, and also in our thinking, our views, and our beliefs.  Jesus, in this beatitude is contrasting the inward life versus the outer life.  In Jesus’ day there was a group of individuals called The Pharisee’s who were often in opposition to Jesus.  They lived “outwardly” religious lives.  Jesus often said that while their outsides looked great, their insides were far from him.  What he was getting at is that the Pharisee’s followed God’s law in external appearances, but their hearts were not pure.  They were following God for all the wrong reasons.  In this beatitude Jesus is saying that to be pure and to see God means that your insides need to follow after God first.  That your heart beats for God and then your externals will follow based on your love for God, and not on getting showed love and respect from people.  So the Pharisee’s were all about the outer appearances, but the Kingdom of God is about inward purification of heart, and then a changed life reflected by what you do in the world.

So those who are single-hearted in their following of Jesus, that have a heart that beats with the heart of Jesus, and those who Jesus’ calls pure in heart, will see God.  So my question revolves around the questions any good reporter would ask.  The questions of when will the pure in heart see God, where will they see God and how they will see God.  Before we get to that, I found a quote from the Ancient Church Father Origen that we need to hear before moving onto seeing God.  Origen writes, “God has no body, and therefore is invisible: but men of contemplation can discernhim with the heart and understanding. But A DEFILED HEART CANNOT SEE GOD: BUT HE MUST BE PURE WHO WISHES TO ENJOY A PROPER VIEW OF A PURE BEING.  Origen talks about how the pure in heart will see God, through their heart, understanding, and through contemplation.  Origen, also makes it clear that those who don’t have a pure heart won’t see God.  Their lives, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, beliefs, etc.. are too wrapped up in other things to truly see God.  So then the how of seeing God means slowing down and listening and looking for God, repenting of sin and other things that cloud your “view”, and then having an eye open throughout your life to the possibility of seeing God.

Now many years ago when I read these words for the first time I remember thinking that the answer to the question of “when will the pure in heart see God” was only limited to when I die and go to heaven.  Now that certainly is true.  We will literally see God the moment that we take our last breath here on earth, and our first breath in heaven.  But just as the gospel isn’t just about heaven after you die, seeing God isn’t just about after you die as well.  Jesus likely meant that the pure in heart see God in the world around them when others are blind.  That the pure in heart are aware of the movements of the Divine in their lives and all throughout the entire creation.

I believe an almost better answer to the question of when and where the pure in heart will see God, is when and where won’t the pure in heart see God?  I believe if given the right spiritual eyes, the spiritual eyes that the pure in heart have, we will see God all the time and everywhere we look.  It will almost be unavoidable.  We will see God in the midst of the creation that is all around us.  If we are pure in heart, we’ll see God while we are on a walk around the neighborhood, or on a drive through the countryside, or during a visit to a city, or a bike ride/hike in the mountains, or at the end of day sitting on your porch watching the sun set.  We’ll “see” God when we turn on the TV, when we watch a movie, when we plug in our iPod, or when we turn on the radio.  We’ll literally see God everywhere we look and everywhere we go.  His hand is all over his creation.  And the pure in heart will see his hand.  And when we see God, we shall enjoy greater intimacy with God than we previously could have even imagined.

So let’s spend some time talking about being pure in heart, what that looks like for us as individuals and as a community, and what it means to see God in the world around us.  To the discussion time we now turn. "

The four discussion questions that are community wrestled with were:

  1. What thoughts, comments, ideas, disagreements, etc… do you have concerning this beatitude?
  2. In what ways do you seek after being pure in heart?  Or in other words how do you develop a pure heart?
  3. Share a time when you have an experience when you “saw” God in the world.
  4. How can you and I live out this beatitude in our world today both as individuals and as a community?