Matthew 5.8: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
The God They Be Seeing
Literally: Privileged the clean ones to the heart because they the God shall be seeing.
Blissful the guiltless, because they will be seeing God.
Happy those free from sin that they shall be seeing the God.
This, more than any of the other beatitudes, I suspect, is for the ‘rest of us’ rather than for the ones about whom Jesus speaks.
To be ‘pure in heart’ as Jesus speaks it means to be free of mixed motives . . . to see the best rather than the worst because one has no eye for the worst . . . to have no care for anything save the things of God . . . it is to be sin free.*
Jesus is not posing a riddle or speaking of impossibilities. He’s talking about someone. But who? And what does it mean that they shall see God? Or perhaps more importantly, what does it mean to those that are not pure in heart to say that the pure ones will see God? Does it mean that they, that we, will not? And what does that mean? Is this code language about how to get to heaven?
View the beatitudes not as a list of criteria to get to heaven, not a list of virtues. View them as a list (and not necessarily the only one) of blessings to particular people, people who are not ordinarily thought of as lucky or blessed.
There may be a call to be more like them. But the more important challenge to the rest of us is simple recognition: the recognition that God values the likes of these.
So who are the pure in heart? Perhaps they’re the ones among us who don’t get the joke – you know, the joke . . . the joke that has a cruel or off-color punch line . . . they don’t get it because for them, it really isn’t funny when somebody falls down because they might be hurt . . . they don’t get sexual innuendo because it never occurs to them to demean God’s gift of our embodiment. . . they are not worldly and in a sense, they are already seeing God . . . all the time.
Perhaps the pure in heart are the child-like innocents among us, for whom life seems very simple, because it is. They’re the ones the rest of us are always explaining things to, as they ask their ridiculous questions: Why would people go to war: don’t they know people will be killed? they wonder. Why would you make fun of her? don’t you know it hurts her feelings? Why are you laughing when she’s crying? they ask mostly themselves.
We answer, but you don’t understand!, to which they sadly respond, you’re right: I don’t understand, leaving us wondering if perhaps we’re the ones who’ve missed the point.
They’re not self-righteous, these pure ones.
They’re simply confused and hurt by the ugliness of the world. Of course they see God.
The great irony is that they most likely have no idea Jesus is actually talking about them.
Oh, blissed, blessed innocent pure ones . . . God is overjoyed to see you . . . and can’t wait for you to see him. . . you see, you already have.
*William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1.