The Pure in Heart

The sixth beatitude is, “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (5:8). To be “pure in heart” is to be holistically devoted to God in thought, word, and deed. In the Bible, the heart refers to seat of the will, which drives our decisions and commitments. For this reason, it is also referred to as the “inner person” (Eph. 3:16), for it ultimately defines who we really are. For a heart to be “pure” is to have our external actions correspond to internal intentions. This is what it means to have integrity––to have an undivided commitment to God in what we believe and what we do. The desire for such holistic devotion to God is what drives David to pray, “unite my heart to fear your name” (Ps. 86:11).

This beatitude is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, expressing what it looks like to live faithfully as Jesus’ disciple. Over and over again, Jesus explains to his followers that it is not enough to do things outwardly, when our heart is not fully aligned to God’s goodness. Jesus teaches that true faithfulness to the Lord begins with our heart, and only God can clearly perceive our heart’s true loves. For this reason, Jesus warns, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). The purity of our heart is expressed in our singular devotion to the praise of our Father who is in heaven.

The Psalm that seems to have informed this beatitude is the pilgrim liturgy found in Psalm 24. It raises the all-important question in the Bible: “Who shall ascend the Holy Mountain of the LORD?” (v.3). And it provides the answer: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (v.4). Such a person “will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (v.5). Yet, the only person who has had perfect integrity, who has had clean hands and a truly pure heart, is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who has ascended the Holy Mountain on our behalf, receiving all blessing and righteousness from God and providing it to all those who put their trust in him.

All those who follow Jesus, are called and empowered to be pure in heart through the Holy Spirit. And all those who are pure in heart are blessed because they shall see God. To see God is to ascend the Holy Mountain of the LORD in Christ Jesus, to behold him in all his glory, to become like him in his grace, and to be perfectly satisfied in his goodness. Such is the disciple of Jesus Christ who is fully flourishing as a human created in the image of God.

Graham Michael is an academic tutor for the BibleMesh Institute and chairs the history department at St. David’s School in Raleigh, North Carolina.