24
Jan
23

How Pure?

Do you like seeing results?

I sure do.

In fact, so enamored am I of seeing a tangible result that I often tailor my thoughts, words, and deeds to that exact end. 

And frankly, that’s a problem. 

To clarify; recent reading and contemplation have led me to view my “results orientation” mindset as a problem for me and the spiritual life to which I aspire.

I began this trip into The Upside Down during church on Sunday. The Gospel lesson for the day was the Beatitudes… found right there in Matthew 5:1-12. 

Pretty familiar stuff, right? Heard it a thousand times. Can almost recite it from memory. Glaze over just the teeniest bit when the pastor begins reading, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

For some reason, however, I was really tuning in yesterday. I had asked the Spirit to help me hear this seminal passage in a fresh, pertinent way… a way that might open my ears to something I really needed to hear. I have often heard people talk about the Beatitudes as the most important sermon Jesus ever preached. And so, if that is the case, why would I give it anything less than my full, undivided attention?

As a result of that prayer and attentiveness, the portion that God chose to smack me upside the head with was, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NRSV). 

“Pure in heart?” What does that mean, exactly?

This question then became the springboard that catapulted me off on my reflections about my proclivity toward result seeking. 

In the stillness of the sanctuary, I came to realize that most of my energies have been spent trying to make something happen. As a lad, I did chores in order to earn an allowance. I did my homework in order to stay out of my parent’s doghouse. 

Later on, I went to college in order to gain employability. I married and had children in order to perpetuate the species. I got a job in order to continue eating and sleeping and being sheltered. I exercised in order to stay healthy.

Soon, I saw that “pursuit of results” had begun leaking over into my spiritual life, too. I recognized that I read the Bible in order to gain wisdom and insight. I prayed in order to solve problems, or to achieve peace of mind. I followed Jesus in order to receive a roadmap for my life. 

My whole life, in a sense, seemed like one giant transaction. A case of, “I give you THIS, and in exchange, you give me THAT.”

It was an orientation that seemed to be the exact OPPOSITE of what Jesus had in mind with the phrase, “pure in heart.” 

If we look at the example of the life he lived here on earth, we soon recognize Jesus as the ultimate practitioner of “purity of heart.” There was no, “in order to…” attached to the things he said and did. No, “…so that X will happen” condition that went along with his words and actions. 

Jesus did not aim to start a religious movement or denomination. His goal was not to overthrow Israel’s Roman overlords. He was not trying to grow his followership or profile. He was not endeavoring to usher in a new world order. 

Jesus loved God purely for the sake of loving God. He loved people purely for the sake of loving people.

But with all that purity of heart going on, isn’t it ironic that today we also recognize Jesus as the ultimate “producer of results” in the history of the world? His life drew the dividing line between BC and AD. His teachings transformed – and continue to transform – lives (mine included) all over the world. His example has inspired countless works of art and literature. He is more alive today than he was 2,023 years ago.

And so I conclude today with a prayer for a purer heart, a more trusting spirit, and a greater sense of gratitude.

Abundant blessings;


3 Responses to “How Pure?”


  1. 1 Art
    January 26, 2023 at 6:20 am

    I like how this blog made me think some random thoughts. First, I wondered if the beatitude actually could mean “blessed are the purified in heart, for (having been purified by God) they will see God.” (They will be better able to see or recognize God, God’s presence, God’s activity.) The Greek word for pure in the beatitude, “katharos,” is also used to mean clean in the sense of free from sin. Second, regarding that Jesus loved God, since Jesus is God, one with God, and that Jesus loved people, since God is love, I guess you can’t get more pure than that. First time reader of your blogs. Saw the invitation to do so below your latest email about our first Thursday evening gathering and, bingo, it had to do with one of the Beatitudes!. Nice. Wish I had time for this more often. Thanks.

  2. February 4, 2023 at 10:21 am

    Really enjoyed the post. It really gives you food for thought. Blessings and Peace!


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