Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. – Matthew 5:8
When Moses was communing with God in preparation for delivering the tablets of the Law to Israel, he wanted to see the Lord face to face. But God’s response was telling, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). With this verse hovering in the back their minds, some of Jesus’ audience may have been thinking, “Wait! Did Jesus imply death is the reward for being pure in heart?”
I think it’s a stretch to say that Jesus thinks of death as a reward, the blessing we look forward to for cleansing our thoughts, feelings, and motivations. He came to defeat death as much as to get rid sin. I think Jesus’ goal with this beatitude is much more straightforward – to make it possible for us to relate to God face to face and still live. If the number one command is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then clearly our Heavenly Father isn’t looking for a reason to smite us. He want those he can freely show love to…and who can love him back freely.
In a pithy way, Jesus outlines the necessary requirement to enjoy the fullest relationship with God possible–a heart free and clear of any moral impurity. Of course, none of us can claim to have so pure a heart; we are all sinners. Which is why Jesus offers his own heart on our behalf. His pure heart counts as ours (justification, for you theology nerds out there) while the Holy Spirit is busy purifying our hearts (sanctification).
Thus in this life we are given the chance to relate to God in a deeply intimate way, perhaps more deeply than you imagine or are ready for. So we trust the Holy Spirit to reshape us to not merely do what’s right, but to want to do what’s right (“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13). Our Loving Lord alone is able to make us into what he’s already credited to us spiritually. We may not be perfect yet, but our imperfections are hidden behind the cross; all the while our hearts are being molded day by day into the perfect image we see in Jesus Christ. So don’t be discouraged if you struggle with sin, temptation, or feeling like your in someone else’s skin when you happen to do something right. We are all works in progress. And the more you actually experience being pure of heart, the closer you’ll get to God. You may even get to see his face and live in this life…not just the next.
Merciful Father, make as pure as your already credit me as being in Christ Jesus so that I might grow closer to you than I dare dreamed before.