In Matthew 5:8, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” But what does it really mean to be “pure in heart”? I read the verse in different versions of the Bible and I especially liked the way The Message paraphrase put it: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”
So I needed to sort out my inside world—remove from it the clutter of impurities like self-centredness, resentment, anger, criticism and fear.
This meant having pure thoughts and pure motives, totally unblemished, totally unselfish, totally honest, totally loving and as transparent as glass. The happy reward of having a pure heart would mean that I would see God and others (and maybe even myself) in a more generous and loving light.
I decided I would try living by this precept for 28 days (with possibly more to follow) in order to truly understand it. But at the human level, Jesus’ instructions are more easily preached than performed. This was about changing my being, my very heart. I needed to sift everything I thought, did and said through the filter of absolute purity.
With a powerful challenge like that, I decided I needed a plan, so I wrote some goals for my month:
I read some other passages that helped me flesh out my understanding of pure-hearted love, including Romans 12:9–21; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22, 23; and Philippians 2:1–11.
In order to truly be “pure in heart,” I first had to examine some things in my inner life and actions:
In the second week of my experiment, something happened that was like a huge magnifying glass, highlighting all the unsavoury bits in myself that I didn’t like and pointing out my impurities.
I am totally intolerant to wheat. If I eat anything with any wheat ingredient, even as much as a crumb, I suffer for at least six weeks. I’m in pain, it’s hard to sleep, I’m physically very tired and I can’t concentrate very well. This profoundly affects my ability to work.
When I eat the wrong thing, it’s hard enough to have the energy for my own needs, let alone to help others with theirs. And it’s easy for the pain, discomfort and fatigue to erode my serenity and joyfulness.
Someone, with the very best of intentions, accidentally gave me something to eat that must have contained a wheat-based ingredient. It was a big enough dose to damage my duodenum. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even drive my car.
Life suddenly became immensely challenging and all my good intentions evaporated into ugliness. I was grumpy, self-pitying, miserable, complaining and resentful. I couldn’t even glimpse my grubby heart under all that junk, let alone a smattering of purity! I became totally disheartened by my awfulness.
The next week, I conducted a seven-hour-long workshop. On my stress scale, this kind of event scores eight out of 10 on a good day. But I was still struggling with my body’s reaction to the wheat product I’d eaten the week before, which meant that I was unbelievably tired and found it very difficult to concentrate.
Conducting training workshops is an important source of my income. If I failed to perform to a high standard, I might not get future contracts. I could be embarrassed in front of leading professionals. I prayed and struggled with my negative and not-so-pure thoughts.
However, one section of the workshop is about encouraging adults to help children focus on their successes and accomplishments, however small, so they can hold on to hope. We call it WWW—What Went Well?
I realised this could encourage me in my own experiment. I was reminded of Paul’s advice to think lovely and positive thoughts: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
So I added another goal to my list: to notice when I make a choice based on pure motives and to be glad, thank God and experience the beauty of that moment.
The more I examined my heart, the more I became aware of my own selfish desires. Too many of my thoughts were critical of other people. Too many times I tainted the air with complaints rather than joy. And as I looked at myself through the scratched and impure lens of my own selfish heart, there were moments when I felt very discouraged.
But instead of giving up, I’d learned to keep asking God for His hope-inspiring and compassionate forgiveness. And I’ve been reminded about the importance of focusing on what God wants me to think and say and do in each moment of my life.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m any more “pure” in heart now than before my experiment began. But in my attempt to become so, I think I glimpsed God. That’s because now, I’m more likely to pause, question my motives and ask what God would like me to do. Even though my heart is muddied with a lot of selfishness, I’m peering through the transparent places and glimpsing more of God’s total purity.
I’ve come to realise that I can’t ever become pure-hearted in my own strength. But the more I focus on God and understand how much He loves me and those around me, the more I become like Him, and the more easily the impurities melt away.
It’s a long journey from my seriously flawed heart to God’s pure heart of love. It’s an upward spiral. But there’s hope. One day I will see God—not just through the opaque glass of my impure heart, but through the wide-open window of His loving forgiveness, face to face, in heaven.
As humans, our inherent sin means we will never be “good” enough. But God looks at our intentions, and erases our sinfulness with Jesus’ blood.