If you’re like me, reading through the Beatitudes can feel like a lesson in failure, none more so than when Jesus proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” (Matthew 5:8).
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
– Matthew 5:8
The greatest desire of my heart is to see God, but this same heart that so desires God, well, to say it isn’t pure is an understatement. Pure means clean, without blemish, perfect.
My heart, the innermost part of who I am, is anything but pure.
Jesus is consistently concerned, not with outward appearances, but with the condition of our hearts. A few chapters later, Jesus reminds us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In my life, the true condition of my heart is usually exposed first thing in the morning. My kids are late, there are 100 things to do, and my mouth quickly reveals my heart to my family and myself.
It’s not always pretty, and it certainly isn’t pure. And even when I am doing things right, the motivations of my heart are so often wrong. I give because I want to receive, I serve because I want recognition, or I take care of my kids and still resent their demands.
My heart is just not pure.
John reminds us of the vast difference between Jesus and the rest of mankind, “This is the message we have heard from him [Jesus] and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth,” (1 John 1:5-6).
There is no darkness, no blemish, no sin in God at all. He’s perfect, but we are not. He’s pure. We are impure.
So how, then, can we ever “see God” like Jesus said the pure of heart would?
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– 1 John 1:7-9
Faith in Jesus leads to a pure heart that can see God. We see God, truly and only, in Christ.
The Sermon on the Mount was taught at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and announced the inauguration of the kingdom of God. This message, which includes the Beatitudes, wasn’t meant to tell everyone what their lives look like. Instead, Jesus was proclaiming what they can and will look like in his coming kingdom—if they follow the king.
I don’t know about you, but I make a lousy king.
My heart isn’t pure.
I am fearful when I should have faith.
I am selfish when I should sacrifice.
I lament when I should worship and laugh when I should mourn.
I just get it all wrong, most of the time.
But Jesus, our king — the true king — is the only one with a pure, unblemished heart. Jesus, who not only sees God, but is God himself, makes us pure through his atoning sacrifice and his living presence.
When we trust in him, we are declared pure in Christ, and we are also assured of seeing God one day.
Jesus’ promised kingdom, described in the Beatitudes, will one day be perfectly consummated. Jesus will return, and our hearts — unbelievable as it seems — will be cleansed forever and we will spend eternity in his presence.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
– 1 John 3:2-3
For disciples of Jesus, the Beatitudes shouldn’t be a list that leads to condemnation but, instead, a list that leads to hope in the eternal promises of God and the blessed life under the reign of Jesus.
Understanding our failings draw us to the feet of Jesus. Only there are we made new, whole, and pure. And only then can we see God.