Of course, the angst that I feel about the state of my heart (discussed in the previous blog post) is in part due to the assumptions about “pure” means. So, what (in context) is purity all about?
To answer this, we need to be reminded that in this portion of the Beatitudes, our statements have both a PERSONAL and a SOCIAL expectation connected with them.
When we discussed being “hungry and thirsty for righteousness,” we noted that Jesus was not only speaking about seeking after the righteousness of God, but about pursuing and standing for social righteousness … seeking justice for the downtrodden and oppressed.
When we discussed being “merciful,” we noted that those who are truly merciful do not just see a need and have an internal reaction of compassion; rather, they go two steps further. They ACT on that emotion, and they especially do so with sworn enemies.
Likewise, the PERSONAL and SOCIAL expectation continue with being “pure in heart.”
As you might expect, being pure in heart (within a biblical context) refers in part to an inward moral purity. Jesus reflects this idea in his condemnation of the Pharisees and their obsession with appearances. In Matthew 23:25-28, he states:
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Martin Luther emphasized the same thing with a contrasting approach. He writes, “Though a common laborer may be dirty or sooty or may smell because he is covered with dirt and pitch … and though he stinks outwardly, inwardly he is pure incense before God because he ponders the Word of God in his heart and obeys it.”
You see the emphasis Jesus and Luther make: it’s a teaching that purity is about our inward morality.
But the SOCIAL side of this is that we are to be pure in our relationships. Simply put, the socially pure in heart is the one who is SINCERE.
In Psalm 24, David writes:
Who will ascend to the hill of the Lord? And who will stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully.
The point David makes is that the pure heart is found in a man who, in his relationships with God and man, there is no falsehood. There is no hypocrisy. There is no deceit. There is utter transparency and sincerity regardless of the type of relationships. There is no give-in to the temptation to wear a different mask and play a different role according to each occasion.
So … Blessed are the pure in heart. Citizens of the Kingdom of God are inwardly pure and relationally sincere in their total being. And this is a blessed state because we get to see God.
Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.