“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Matthew 5:8.
There’s a way of seeing things clearly.
I hate being fooled; deceived. I like to think of myself as a straight shooter. I don’t wince when people tell like it is. But it’s another story when there are lies, winking, and creative fact manipulation.
Yet for all my disdain for deception, I find my heart to be most duplicitous. It has a hard time seeing things clearly and then recounting them honestly. It’s true for us all. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)?
So what can Jesus possibly mean when He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)? I know all too well how confused, complicated, and conniving my heart can be. Yet, I also know that my heart sincerely desires to see God.
That’s the funny thing about desires. We can have so many of them that we can get confused about what it is we’re really seeking. American Christians probably struggle most with the competition of desires. We have the magic of the advertisement community to help us believe we can have it all. So we desire a little of this and a little of that. We desire to be close to Jesus and desire to be comfortable, admired, and successful. A little of this and a little of that. Before long, we desire so much of this and that our hearts bend under the weight of not knowing what we really want.
Oh I know, we all say we just want Jesus. And you’re probably protesting at that last paragraph. But when was the last time you said you just wanted to be close to Jesus but then couldn’t understand why you were so upset and disappointed that your prayers went unanswered, you lost your job, someone insulted you, your marriage is stinky…or nonexistent. Really, let’s be honest. Sometimes our motivations for wanting Jesus get tangled up with the Achilles heal of our humanity: pride. Sometimes wanting more of Jesus gets translated in my heart as getting more of all the things I want; the things I think Jesus ought to give me. My desire for Jesus becomes a mosaic rather than a portrait.
I remind myself of the Pharisee described in Luke 11:37-38.
“Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal.”
Like the Pharisee, I want have lunch with Jesus—just to be close to Him. So too, I’m often surprised that He doesn’t conform to my traditions and values. He doesn’t give me what I’m looking for in my being close to Him. I don’t see Him clearly. Like the Pharisees, Jesus says to me, “Woe to you, your heart is not pure. You desire things in your heart that keeps you from seeing Me.” (summary of Luke 11:39-44)
This way of seeing clearly isn’t something the eyes capture. It is captured by the heart with the question, “What do I really love?” If I tell my husband I love him and yet still lust after other men, my love for him is not pure; it is corrupted. If I tell him I love him, but think about that love in terms of the benefit his love brings me—comfort, companionship, chocolate—than my love is not pure; it is self-serving. But when I say I love him and the picture of him occupies every square inch of my heart’s desires—no distractions, no dependent clauses—then love flows from a heart not conflicted or tainted; it is pure.
None of us come to this conversation with pure motives. Nor will we ever; our desires our bound to be confused by the flesh and indulged by the world. Yet if we listen closely to this Beatitude we will hear Jesus saying, “I have purified your heart with My blood. Now go keep it clean; be clear sighted. Don’t let it get junked up with the desires of your flesh and of the world. When your heart is lying to you; speak the truth of My beauty to it. When you find yourself distracted, refocus. Look at Me. Remember My love for you. Desire to be close to My love. Be pure-hearted.”
A friend this week sent me a quote from Martin Luther, spoken on his deathbed. “We are all beggars. It is true.” Yet true, too, is that we do not all beg for the same thing. Jesus promised that those who seek, find. Could it be that we don’t see God clearly because we’re seeking and begging for the wrong things?
The pure in heart beg to see Jesus. Just Jesus. It is the only way to see things clearly.
How about you? Do you struggle with distractions? Do you find yourself seeking Jesus with the expectation that there will be a “bonus”? What do you hear this Beatitude saying to you?