Have you noticed that there is a new food recall every couple of months? One item is recalled because of minute metal shavings that may have landed in the box. Another may be recalled due to bacterial contamination. Occasionally items are recalled because the contents are different than the labeling, like the gluten-free herbal supplement that upon scrutiny contained some wheat flour. The worst, of course, is when someone tampers with a product in order to cause harm. I think that these examples of impurity will help us understand Jesus’ next beatitude – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NASB95)
There are two aspects to consider when unwrapping what it means to be “pure in heart”. The first could be called inner moral purity and the second singleminded integrity. Paul observed to Timothy, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB95) Inner moral purity is a heart that is pursuing Christ’s command to love God at full throttle. It’s a heart that flees from sin and seeks after righteousness. Having inner moral purity does not mean that we are perfect but that we press on. Paul observed about himself, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13–14, NASB95) Inner moral purity drives us to consider our thoughts, actions, and desires in the light of Christ; rejecting the wrong even if it seems good and embracing the right even when it seems difficult. The second aspect of being pure in heart, singleminded integrity, could be called truth in labeling.
One day Jesus called out the Pharisees because of their religious hypocrisy. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27–28, NASB95) The Pharisees had an appearance of righteousness, they sought to do the right things, dress the right way, observe the law in all its fullness but their hearts were never changed. Having singleminded integrity means that our hearts are not divided, there are no secret agendas or harbored deceit. It also means that we do things out of a heart of love instead of trying to impress God with our sacrifice. In other words, the label of our life and our walk with Jesus lines up with what is really going on in our heart.
You can’t have one without the other. Someone can have singleminded integrity and be evil. And like the Pharisees, it is possible to have a moral purity tainted with hypocrisy. Purity of heart only happens when moral purity and single-minded integrity come together as we press on to know and love Christ.
The promise is that the pure in heart will see God. Consider this. I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower in books, movies, and tv. I’ve seen photos of its construction and read about its history. I can describe what it looks like and might even be able to draw a rough picture of its form. But I’ve never experienced the Eiffel Tower. I’ve never stood at its feet and stared at its height. I’ve never touched the iron or rode the elevator to the top. The promise is more than simply seeing God but that the pure in heart would experience God in a deeper and fuller way than can be described.
Like many promises in the Bible, there is an “already but not yet” quality to this one as well. One day the pure in heart will experience the fullness of God in heaven. But the pure in heart experience God in some way every day. The pure in heart see God in the sights around them; in the colors of the sunrise and the beauty of nature. They see God in the smiles of others. They see past someone’s wounded, angry, or bitter outburst and recognize the compassion God desires to pour out on them. The pure in heart recognize the evil of the world for what it is and see Jesus’ nail-scarred hands reaching out in response. The pure in heart know Jesus’ love because they’ve touched it and been changed by it.
The challenge is fairly straightforward. If you are not seeing and experiencing God in your life and in the world around you it’s not because God is not there. Instead of blaming God or others cry out with the David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:10–12, NASB95) Growing in purity and experience with God is never-ending. Maybe you’re like the tourist that has only seen the Eiffel Tower from afar. There’s so much more to experience with God, so much more to touch, taste, smell, and see but each step requires more of our heart to be totally in love with Him. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”