Summary: When we respond to God
Blessed are the Pure in Heart
Matt 5:8 April 10, 2011
A couple of years ago we went to Ottawa as my wife Joanne had some work to do there, so Thomas and I tagged along to check out our nation’s capital. One of the places we visited was the historic Canadian mint – where money is made – and we had a tour but unfortunately no free samples. One of the things we saw, secured behind some very thick glass, was a specially-produced coin. In 2007, the Canadian mint produced 5 special gold coins, each weighing 100kg, with a face value of $1 million dollars. That’s right, a million dollar coin. Don’t try to put that in the coke machine…
Why? It was designed as a showcase of a technological breakthrough that allowed the Canadian mint, already a world leader in the refinement of gold, to achieve a never-before level of purity – 99.999% pure. Less than 10 parts per million of other elements. The guides were quite excited to tell us about the mint’s incredible accomplishment of “five nine” gold, and bragged about this incredible purity.
There is something appealing about purity. Whether in our gold or our drinking water, the idea of “purity” is appealing to us. Now what about our hearts?
Blessed are the Pure in Heart:
Today’s beatitude says, “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.” As appealing as pure gold is, I think most of us would resonate with a desire for a pure heart more. Is there not something lofty in those words of Jesus, that touch some space inside of us that longs for that idea of purity?
So then what of our hearts now? Ha! most of us think, not likely… We know our failures, our sins, probably even well enough that they have become comfortable, and so we hear this beatitude and most of us think “well, that must be someone else, I am not pure, I am a sinner…”. But maybe that is not quite true…
Maybe we need to understand what this “purity” Jesus talked about is. My theological dictionary says this: “The purity of the NT community is personal and moral by nature. It consists in full and unreserved self-offering to God which renews the heart and rules out any acceptance of what is against God. Those who are pure in heart in this way are called to participate in the kingdom of God” (TDNT 3:425). It is an important definition, and there is a really important context for us to understand here. See, the Pharisees were all about purity – they went to great lengths to observe the external requirements of the law, and took great pride in their accomplishments. The rituals were of the utmost importance to them, hand washing and Sabbath keeping and food eating. “Purity” in this external way for the Pharisees was the goal and the way of life. But now Jesus says something different, He re-defines purity and internalizes it for us, essentially reversing the external idea and making it about our hearts. Now of course our actions still matter, but in Jesus’ view our right actions begin and arise from our pure heart.
I like this definition because it captures the tension between our work and God’s work. We participate by “full and unreserved self-offering to God”, God “renews the heart”, and then we “rule out any acceptance of what is against God” by the power of God dwelling within our renewed heart. Essentially, we give God all of us, He makes us pure, and together we live in the Kingdom of God winning the constant battle against temptation.
In wondering if we are included in Jesus’ statement – if we are included among the “pure in heart”, let me ask another question – have you ever seen God? Even a glimpse… an inkling… a tiny vision, at least enough that awakened you to want more. I think you probably have, or else you probably wouldn’t be here. We have seen God, we’ve seen His hand on our lives, seen His work in us and through us, seen His presence in ways that are very real to us. Certainly not in fullness, but most of us have seen God. So there must be something of purity in us, some place where the Holy Spirit has come and wiped some small part of the muck off so that we can catch a glimpse of a different way, a deeper life, a fulfilled joy, that invites us to come and see more. And as we respond, the Holy Spirit wipes a little more muck off, and we see a little more, and we respond and the process happens again and again, and as we cooperate with God and “hunger and thirst” and create space in our lives for God to work, the Holy Spirit purifies us, and we see God.