Sweeping and dusting will never be enough. Redecorating schemes are all disasters: mock renewals, clever coverups. I need an undivided heart: no padlocked chambers set aside for resident anger, no halls of hard-core selfishness, no darkened corners for illicit pleasures. Instead, give me one room, wide and filled with light, walls scrubbed crystal clean, wholly devoted to harboring love and nurturing goodness, teeming with reminders of key events and precious people, places we have been and revelations of truth. Then, dear heart, open the sunroof and let the light pour in to grow luxuriant hanging gardens. Let the music of singing stars and healed cripples ripple the atmosphere as they dance with strong straight limbs around the gifts of grace and souvenirs of rescue. Feel health pulse through the breeze the breath of God renewing my true self. Smell the fragrant winsomeness of fresh-baked bread: bread of the Presence, sustenance. Unlock the doors and let the music out, share thick slices of warm bread with every hungry passerby. Leave tantalizing traces — the aroma of delights — along each path I take. Let love-lights leap from windows into the shadowed world, clear evidence of the radical new me.
Let’s dive into the beatitudes again. We are now on the sixth one, in verse 8:
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matt. 5:8 NET)
Having a pure heart is a prerequisite for seeing God! That makes it a key goal!
One of the challenges of being involved in Bible translation in a previously unwritten language was searching for words or expressions that would adequately communicate key Biblical terms. I remember when “hypocrisy” was the one in focus. After testing various suggestions, the true match (agreed on by all the Nyarafolo team) was an expression that would be, in literal English: “two stomachs.” Startling? Well, “stomach” has a second meaning in this context, “interior,” and is actually the expression that means the same thing as “heart” in our English Bible translations. I began to understand both these symbolic organs as expressing a person’s true interior character. Each one is the seat of emotions, motivation, and conscience. And if you have two in your own inner space, you are only showing one to those around you, hiding the other one. Someone who is sincere has a “clear interior” in Nyarafolo. It is full of light. I found that translatable in my own understanding to the difference between having a divided heart, with hidden “rooms” or “closets,” versus having one perfectly clean and light-filled heart. It changes everything to be able to live out sincere moral purity and grace with the rest of that space swept clean and renewed.
The divided heart, with hidden closets, is what is exposed when Christian leaders are shown up to be involved in sexual sin, kept secret for years. Every time I see one of those headlines I mourn. If only each one had let Christ’s light shine into every space! And it reminds me to search my own heart. What am I hiding?
“I need an undivided heart . . . give me just one room . . .” There comes a time in true spiritual growth when one can see more clearly than ever their own desperate need for complete renovation. Yes, they’ve been forgiven, given a new start. They have repented and turned from old ways, but as time goes on they find that there is lingering filth inside, or new slime that has crept in. As Paul said:
For I want to do the good, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but I do the very evil I do not want! (Rom. 7:18b-19 NET)
The yearning for clear, pure inner space is another facet of that hunger and thirst for righteousness that is the quality in the fourth beatitude. And it is also fueled by that mourning over inner brokenness, that second step after recognizing one’s inner poverty. The beatitudes are building from our awareness of our great need, the focus of the first four, to the qualities that develop as a believer matures: mercy, inner purity, peacemaking, and the kind of righteousness that incites pushback/persecution.
Another way of describing this clear interior is “single-mindedness” (cf. Jas 4:8, where it is the “double-minded” who are exhorted to “purify [their] hearts”):
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (Jas. 4:8 NIV)
Isn’t it interesting how “double-mindedness” parallels the Nyarafolo understanding of a double interior/stomach in a person?
When we approach God with sincerity, he welcomes us and comes even closer to us. He forgives and renews us. Then it is up to us to purify our hearts! I see this as our devoted participation in the process, living out what God has done for us by carefully following his commands. The disciple Peter had learned this by recognizing his own failings when he denied his Lord, then had that intimate conversation with him after the resurrection and was reminded to love his Lord and to show that love to others in the community, the Lord’s “sheep” (John 21:15-17). Later, he wrote to the diaspora of believers:
You have purified your souls by obeying the truth in order to show sincere mutual love.So love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (1 Pet. 1:22 NET)
We become purified through the process of active obedience to the true teaching of the Lord. And how does this show up? In being able to love one another, sincerely.
We all know how hard that commandment is, the one the Lord underlined so dramatically in his last words to his disciples before he was crucified:
“I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (Jn. 13:34 NET)
In other words, pure hearts show up in radical obedience. Mercy, grace and love are extended to brothers and sisters, in spite of differences. There will always be differences. Not only are we still imperfect, we come from different backgrounds, cultures and circumstances; we have different personalities. But we can decide to:
"Unlock the doors and let the music out, share thick slices of warm bread to every hungry passerby. Leave tantalizing traces — the aroma of delights — along each path I take. Let love-lights leap from windows into the shadowed world, clear evidence of the radical new me."
And with purified hearts, we know that we will see God. Yes, that mostly refers to that day we look forward to with such anticipation, when we will see Jesus, when we will be in Glory with God himself. But just as many Old Testament people “saw” the Lord in some manifestation, we too can see his fingerprints on our lives, and in circumstances that we know cannot be mere coincidence. His Presence is real now, though we still see him with blurred vision:
For now we see in a mirror indirectly,but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. (1 Cor. 13:12 NET)
So let us practice what Jesus lived out: a life lived for God and overflowing with love for others. No hidden closets in our hearts, no double-mindedness! That is what it means to be pure in heart. And it comes with the promise of great blessing.