Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
This one eludes me. I can get the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, the hungering and thirsting for righteousness, even the merciful; I get all these, and can identify to a certain degree with them all. But the pure in heart seems way beyond my grasp. Is it really saying: “Blessed are those who know they are not pure in heart and who come to me to be made pure”? I do think that’s part of it, but somehow that seems a little too easy.
When I think of pure in heart, I think of people who are one with themselves on the inside. I think of someone with no guile, no secrets — someone the same on the outside as on the inside … someone turned inside out. Doesn’t mean it’s all good either; it’s just that it’s true. When I think of pure in heart, I think of someone without any mixed motives. And I think of someone who is definitely not me.
I am well trained at being deceptively righteous. I am not blaming anyone for this — I would like to blame my hypocritical Christian background — but that would be a cop out, because I am self-taught. I became this way all by myself, and I’m so good at it, I can even fool myself.
For years I’ve rested my case with Paul who said in 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.”
There you go: even Paul refuses to judge his own motives. As comforting as this is, that still leaves me short of “pure in heart.”
I do know my wife has this down much more than I do. Her character is such that she can’t hide. When she speaks of the Lord, it comes from a pure heart. When I ask her what that’s like — where it comes from — she tells me it’s an attitude; an attitude of obedience. It’s a decision in the heart to obey; to do the right thing. It’s a choice devoid of belligerence or disobedience. It’s not a reluctant, “Well, you leave me no choice…” but a real, born-of-the-Spirit desire to please God. And I know she’s right because I know she sees God.
I will leave the final word this morning to one of my mentors, the late Ray C. Stedman, who wrote about this: “The word pure does not mean someone who has never been exposed to evil. It means literally “the purged” in heart. Blessed are those who have been cleansed, those who know the grace of forgiveness. As David put it so beautifully in the 32nd Psalm: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute iniquity,”
(cf, Psalm 32:2).
So if you talk about the grace of forgiveness, I know I qualify for that. The pure in heart would be those who trust in that forgiveness and nothing else. No religious pedigree, no hiding, no hypocrisy. The pure in heart is that grace turned inside out.