Tag Archives: pure

The Beatitudes, part 7: Pure in Heart

Read Matthew 5:8

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name. (Psalms 86:11 NRSV)

pure-heart-5-1Jesus, before the entire multitude, continues on in his beatitudes, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” This beatitude would not have shocked the average Jewish person. After all, Jesus was referencing Psalm 24:3-4, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.” (Psalms 24:3-4 NLT)

But before we get into who the “pure in heart” are, let us first discuss what Jesus IS NOT referring to. While on the beach at the ocean with my family yesterday, my daughter asked me a rather direct question, “Dad, what’s debauchery.” That may sound like a strange question coming from one’s daughter; however, in context, she was reading George Orwell’s “1984”, which she was assigned as summer reading for school. It is in that book that she came across the word, which isn’t exactly a word people regularly use anymore.

After I explained what debauchery was, we left the beach and went out to eat. We were seated by our hostess in the bar section of the restaurant that we were eating at on the boardwalk. We’ve eaten there plenty of times uneventfully and we always go during “family-friendly” times to avoid any sort of wild party scene. Well, that plan was foiled by a group of rather self-absorbed adults who were clearly getting a head start on their raucus drinking and were, ironically, giving my daughters an object lesson of what “debauchery” is all about. Now, my daughters are old enough to know what’s going on and to know it’s “NOT COOL”, but there were other infants, toddlers, and children there with their families, who were equally shocked by the behavior of these debaucherous “adults.”

I am sure I need not go into detail with you as to what they were doing, but they were anything but the “cool” they thought they were being…if they were thinking at all. Let me say this, REAL ADULTS are mindful of children and innocent ones around them; these people were clearly not acting like real adults. With all of this said, when Jesus referred to the “pure in heart” he was NOT referring to purity as in the opposite of “debauchery.” He was not referring to the those who avoid impure thoughts (aka sexual fantasies), the sexually chaste and/or those who abstain from indulging the pleasures of the senses.

No doubt, it is true, that such people WOULD NOT be considered to be pure in heart, but not necessarily for the reasons our puritanically informed minds might think. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” he is thinking of it in terms of monotheistic Judiam. Like in Psalm 86 (see above), Jesus is saying, “Blessed are those who have an undivided heart and who devote themselves solely and entirely to God. Blessed are those who are devoted to God with all of their hearts, for they will see God.”

It is such single minded, pure-hearted, devotion that is required for the worship of the one, true God, and this is what Jesus had in mind. Conversely, those who do not devote themselves solely to God will not see God because they will be distracted by all of the things that pull them away. When one’s heart is divided between God and other things (whatever those things are), it is impossible for one to truly be devoted to God because those other things will continue to get in the way. Whether those things are our time, our possessions, our sensual desires, our greed, our hatred, our bitterness, our nationalism, our racism, our sexism, our heterosexism, our ageism, our ablism, or whatever “isms” we may harbor, those things will always take precedence over God and, as a result, we will be blinded to God.

Thus, Jesus is telling us all that the antithesis of being “pure in heart” is a divided heart. Christ is calling us to have a single-minded, whole-hearted, devotion to God. Let nothing, and Christ means nothing, stand in the way of your relationship with God. If you become “pure in heart”, you will be blessed with the sight and the knowledge of God. May your prayer, as well as mine, be that we draw ever closer to God and to Christ our redeemer.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 NRSV)

PRAYER Lord, draw me close to you and never let me go. Help me find the way and bring me back to you. Amen.

WORKS OF THE FLESH: Impurity

Read Galatians 5:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.” (Romans 6:19 NLT)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “the works of the flesh.”

fieryITHE WORKS OF THE FLESH: Impurity. My family loves to drink water; however, some in my family refuse to drink tap water. For them, tap water skeeves them out because it comes from the ground and into our cup through a “dirty” faucet. We cannot know what is in that water, and it tastes kind of “funny”; therefore, the perception is that the water is not pure. On the other hand, bottled water is perceived to be pure water. It is assumed by most people to be filtered of all impurities and, therefore, it is a “safe” and “clean” water to drink.

At one time, decades ago, people would have laughed at the idea of bottling and selling water. Who, in their right mind, will ever buy bottled water? I can get that for free right out of my tap, why would I pay for something that I can get for free? Yet, the bottled water industry (owned by-and-large by big “junk-food”/”soft-drink” corporations such as Coca-Cola, Nestle and Pepsi) has done a phenomenal job in marketing their product. Brands such as Nestle’s “Pure Life”, Poland Springs, Dasani, Fiji, Nirvana, and others all suggest that the water that is being sold is pure, natural, wild, exotic, heavenly, life-giving, etc. Yet, is this water any more pure than the water that ACTUALLY comes from one’s well in their backyard (provided you don’t drink city/town water)?

Whether or not bottled water is cleaner or more pure than ACTUAL water from an aquifer under the ground is debatable; however, what isn’t debatable is that water can be, and often is, contaminated by things that make it impure. While in it’s natural state water is pure and is the bare necessity to all living things, things from the outside can seep into it and make it impure. Like water, we too can be contaminated by outside sources. God created us pure and wholesome as beings capable of love, of compassion, of creativity, of growth, of respect, of stewardship, and of service. God created us with the ability to be vessels of life-giving water, a people who nurture and care for all living things, as well as for all of creation.

However, outside sources in the world have seeped into our lives and we know what they are. We have become glamoured by materialistic things, we have been charmed by greed, hatred, bitterness, vengeance, arrogance, narcissism, and selfishness. As a result, we have become contaminated and impure. We have become consumed by stuff that doesn’t belong with us and, as such, have become depraved. What’s more, have begun to define ourselves by our depravity in ignorance of what our pure and wholesome state is. This is NOT something we were born into, but something we’ve allowed to take over our lives and our world. Paul is calling us to allow God to purge us of our impurities. That can be a painful process; however, once it is done we will begin to experience what true and pure life IN GOD actually is! Are you ready to become filled, once again, with living water?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“One by one, little by little, moment by moment, a wise man should remove his own impurities, as a smith removes his dross from silver.” – The Buddha, The Dhammapada 18:239

PRAYER
Lord, help to purge me of my impurities so that I may once again experience and share pure and true life. Amen.