The pure in heart are blessed, for they will see God.
There are numerous cultural and contextual differences between a first-century Palestinian Jew and a 21st-century Christ-follower attempting to understand their faith and the world around them. However, it seems we share a common failing—an inability or unwillingness to see Him and seek Him for who He is (1 John 3:2).
Throughout the Gospels, the majority of people who came in contact with Jesus had a difficult time seeing Him. The crowds couldn't agree whether He was a good man or a false prophet (John 7:12). Some saw Him as One with authority (Matthew 7:28) while others saw signs and wonders and little else (John 6:36).
The rich young ruler saw Him as a teacher, but went away disappointed that He didn’t grade on a curve (Mark 10:17). The religious leaders saw Him alternately as a blasphemer (Mark 14:64), a lawbreaker (Luke 6:7), a demon (John 8:52), a drunkard (Luke 7:34), and a threat to their power base. Pontius Pilate had no idea what he saw.
In a wonderful bit of irony, it was a number of blind men who saw Him better than men with sight did. Those closest to Him weren’t immune to faulty vision either as some misunderstood Him to be merely the successor to the throne of David and a political Messiah. Even John the Baptist, whom Jesus said was greater than all others, lost sight of Him for a moment (Matthew 11:3).
The failed vision, if not outright blindness, of first-century Palestine has extended well into our day, and in many cases, within the church. The want of the modern, post-modern, or post-Christian culture is to see a god of our own choosing—not as He is, but who we desire Him to be.
Someone once rightly diagnosed, "In the beginning, God created us in His own image and now we’re returning the favor." Most prominently is, perhaps, the desire to make His Kingship political. The Zealots, Romans, and Jewish Leaders wanted to know Jesus’ political affiliation, and we’re no different today.
Whichever side of the political divide Christians find ourselves on these days, we’re both guilty of claiming Christ as our own. Both are irresponsibly reading the Bible through the lens of their politics, rather than seeing it (and everything else) through the lens of God’s Word.
Consequently, we’ve steadily, and in many cases, purposely compartmentalized. In so doing, we’ve disfigured the true image of Christ by co-opting aspects of His character that meet our wants while discarding any of His attributes because they offend some of our cultural assumptions.
Jesus speaks of the blessing of those with a pure heart: they shall see God. While there’s an important expression of a pure heart that’s about cleanliness, the purity that Christ describes is one of single-mindedness and whole-heartedness.
A pure heart, in the eyes of God, is one that seeks truth, no matter how unpopular that may be. A pure heart seeks to emulate the work of Christ, to "preach good news to the poor...to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed" (Luke 4:18).
A pure heart seeks righteous justice that happens by getting dirty, coming in contact with lepers and making mud with dirt and spit. Justice isn’t about rights—it’s about responsibility. Without a proper understanding of the purpose and nature of righteous justice, we’ll always opt for its weaker, less accountable brother, social justice.
Yet it’s impossible to reconcile the Jesus of social justice and the Jesus of scripture who said, “Follow me and you will be homeless, hated, scourged, betrayed, and very likely DIE." If Jesus was selling a cure-all for our physical needs, then He needed a new marketing department.
Unless our vision, thinking, and desires go deeper than ourselves, then our understanding of the Man, the message, and the mission will be necessarily prejudicial and deficient.
He didn't come into the world to make us more compassionate toward the poor, tell us to pay our taxes, calm our rage, or stop our drinking and immorality. He came to change our hearts. He came that we might SEE him. To walk in that light is our privileged response.
Yet, the truth remains. He’s God and He isn’t diminished at all by our lack of vision. It’s we who become less than we ever imagined. We’re merely children finger-painting over the Mona Lisa.
- Is it possible that we might do good works and not be in the will of God?
- What are some of the consequences of seeking or seeing God with only half our hearts?
- How does Psalm 24:3-6 define the pure of heart?