When I hear the term “pure in heart” I think of innocence and sweet little children. Someone who has a pure heart is a loving person whose motivations are totally good, someone who sees the world from a simple, honest perspective. That’s what Jesus meant, right? I actually think he meant a great deal more than that, largely because of how people viewed the heart thousands of years ago. In our culture, the heart is unquestionably linked to emotion. While this is a holdover from ancient beliefs, ancients placed even more importance on the heart. For the most part, the brain was ignored. The heart was considered the seat of intelligence as well as emotion. The two were not considered totally separate. As I thought about that idea, I found that the ancients were correct. Even though they attributed them to the wrong organ, these ancient people understood something we have lost sight of. With all our emphasis on science and reason, we have somehow come to believe that thought and emotion operate apart from each other. While the two aren’t identical, they are inextricably linked. If I’m sad, my thoughts tend to be darker. If I’m thinking of things that amuse me, my mood improves. If I think something is wrong, I will feel angry when I see it. If I have convinced myself a sin is “not that bad,” then I won’t feel guilty about it (at least until God readjusts my thinking).
So, what is Jesus actually talking about in this beatitude? What is it he is saying I should be? I think being pure in heart is another one of those seemingly impossible tasks because it means my thoughts and emotions are holy, all the time. I’m not talking about just at church or Bible study but also at work and when someone cuts me off in traffic. I don’t know about other people, but I’m not anywhere near that level of holy. Thoughts come into my head that have no business being there. I get ticked off over little things. There was a time in my life when I thought I was doing good simply because I usually didn’t act on those thoughts and feelings. God didn’t allow me to keep that delusion for long. The Pharisees could lay claim to correct action but Jesus rebuked them often for their internal thoughts and feelings. So, how do I become pure in mind and emotion? I can’t stop thoughts from popping into my mind but I don’t have to let them linger. I can’t control my initial emotional reactions to every situation but I don’t have to let them fester. Is that enough to be pure in heart? Though it is necessary, I don’t think even that discipline is enough to qualify. Why? Because I am not holy in my own right and those are actions that stem from me. The only way I can be pure is to be purified from an outside source. In other words, I can’t be pure unless God makes me pure. If I place my focus on Him, His purity will cleanse my impurity, allowing me to see Him more clearly until I can indeed see his face. “For they will see God” is not just the reward for having a pure heart; it is the natural result of it.