Today, as it was two millennia ago, the Sermon on the Mount is the closest thing we have to a Jesus manifesto. It’s probably the most recognized of his teachings and also the most misunderstood. We’re looking at each beatitude separately to see what Jesus could possibly have to say to us today. To see what we’ve covered so far, check out: You Say You Want A Revolution , Out of the Abyss, Meek and Mighty, A Place at the Table and Mercy Me.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:1-12).
How much do we really know anyone these days? Even when you consider someone a close friend, there are tidbits you discover over the course of time that you didn’t previously know about that person. That’s common.
What’s also common is seeing someone in one context and then seeing that same person manifesting other traits in another context. It’s like they have a persona for one group of people and another persona for another group. In those situations, you begin to wonder who is the real person.
Humanity has struggled with this concept since the beginning of time. We have all sorts of creative behavior to protect and project ourselves: say one thing and do another; go along with the crowd, even when we don’t agree; omit or inflate information on a resume or application. You get the idea.
Jesus had some particularly harsh things to say about the religious leaders who followed the law and demonstrated piety publicly, and connived and extorted privately. He was especially fond of calling these types hypocrites and white-washed sepulchres. Jesus wasn’t interested in someone’s outward behavior. Jesus was interested in a person’s heart. He was even more interested in the integration of the truth of one’s heart informing one’s character. In other words, who you say you are is who you are anywhere, anytime, and with anyone.
That brings us to our beatitude: blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. God is all about relationships: our relationship with ourselves, our relationships with others, and of course, our relationship with God. The whole idea is that there is a sincerity and unity in all of one’s relationships. There is no falsehood nor any division between how one is with God, others, and themselves.
That’s the essence of the word pure. When something is pure it’s not mixed with anything else; it’s single-minded and transparent. Wow. How many people do you know whose whole life – public and private – are transparent? What about your’s? Is everything about your life – your thoughts, motives, actions – before God, with yourself, and before others, unmixed with anything devious or false? I don’t know anyone, myself certainly included, who has that kind of purity of heart.
And that’s the point. It’s impossible to be pure in heart apart from an ongoing, purposeful relationship with God. Only God can change our hearts and that’s only if we are willing to have our hearts changed.
The ancient craftsman had a process by which to refine the gold. He would toss the metal into a pot and monitor the heat from the fire underneath. He had to tend the fire enough to melt the metal, but not too much to scorch it. The heat from the fire would cause the dross to rise. The craftsman would then skim off the dross and monitor the heat, continuing this process until all of the impurities were removed from the gold. The craftsman knew the gold was pure when he could see his reflection.
God is like that master craftsman. God takes who we are and skims off all the impurities that have clouded our hearts. It’s not always easy and sometimes we may wonder if it’s even worth it. But when we realize that the difficulty of maintaining all of our various selves is more difficult than the process of becoming whole and sincere, we’re open to the healing and purity only God can provide. It’s a process, not a one-time fix. There is no way to know how it’s all going to work or come together, but that’s what makes it both intriguing and worth it.
Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it is to have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Are you willing to have God change your heart?