Guest Post Author: David Swanger, Outreach and Involvement Minister (Hendersonville church of Christ ~ Hendersonville, Tennessee)
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).
The ermine is a short-tailed weasel that has the unique feature of having its fur change to a snow-white color in the winter. God created this animal with this feature to protect it from predators.
The ermine instinctively protects his white coat against anything that will soil it.
Fur hunters in northern Europe and Asia take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him; instead, they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree.
They smear the entrance and interior with grime. then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but will not enter because of the filth.
Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity.
For the ermine, purity is more precious than life.
Looking at what we have thus far studied in the previous verses, one who is bankrupt in spirit, broken with grief, submissive to God’s leading, living with an insatiable desire for righteousness, sharing with others the mercy he has received, Christ now turns his attention to the most precious passion he can pursue and that is purity of heart.
Without a passion for purity, one will never see God, be a part of His kingdom, enter His presence, or enjoy His forgiveness. It is hard to imagine that there is anything more important than purity.
That being said, I can’t imagine any Bible subject harder to get a full grasp on than purity. It encompasses everything revealed in Scripture and draws upon every biblical theme.
Hundreds of verses point to the need for, the pursuit of, the blessings of having, and the consequences of a failure to obtain, purity.
While in our day much time and effort is focused on the purity of such things as food, water, and air, we would be wise to focus more intently on the purity of heart that Jesus speaks of here.
When Solomon tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” (Proverbs 4:23), we would be wise to listen.
For God, man’s heart has always been the issue. While throughout the world the idea of the heart has always represented the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, biblically it represents more than that.
Biblically, the heart includes the thinking process, specifically the will. Solomon pointed out that “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7), and Jesus asked on one occasion, “Why are you thinking evil in your heart?” (Matthew 2:8).
The emphasis is always on the heart because everything flows from the heart. It is the spiritual center of one’s being, the battlefield on which God and Satan wage war for our affections and allegiances.
The outcome in this battle for the heart is critical, for God knows if He has your heart, He has all of you. If He doesn’t have your heart, He has none of you.
The word “pure” is the Greek word from which we get “catharsis,” which means the cleansing of the mind or emotions. Scholars suggest that this word has basically two meanings:
(1) The first has to do with pure motives. Like the chaff that is winnowed from the grain or the impurities that are removed from metals through the refining process, this word speaks of a heart whose motives are pure, whose loyalty is undivided, and one which is guided by God’s word in a specific direction.
(2) Secondly, it refers to the holy life that is the end result of those Godly motives. This purity of life is not restricted to moral or sexual purity, but rather it denotes one who loves God with all of his heart and whose single-minded loyalty to God has affected every single area of his life.
Put together, these definitions of purity speak of a singular focus and undiluted fervor for God, an uncompromising passion that wills the love of god into one’s life and is clearly reflected in everything that one thinks, does, and says.
The promise to the pure in heart is beyond comprehension. The pure in heart get to see God.
In every area of life there are those who can see what others cannot. A trained engineer, botanist, or doctor can see what others cannot see. Jesus says that only the pure in heart can see God.
It was C.S. Lewis who wrote, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.” It is an awesome thought that when God sees our hearts as pure, it is then that we are allowed to see Him.
As I thought about the heart that God desires of me, I thought of Stevie Jones. Stevie was a childhood friend who loved me unconditionally. When he saw me, he would scream out my name, run to me, give me a big hug, pat me on the back, kiss my cheek, and continue touching me.
When given the opportunity, he would slap me and kick me on the shin, for that is what his hero Tojo Yamamoto (professional wrestler) did.
Stevie had Down Syndrome, and it wasn’t just me who was special. To Stevie, everyone was special. His heart and motives were so pure, perfect, and predictable.
I learned a lot about motives from Stevie, though admittedly not nearly enough. I learned that spiritually I am the one with special needs, for when it comes to motives (whether toward God or others), they are often less than pure. Stevie’s pure love, innocence, and passion were something I needed then and continue to need today.
One side of purity I get. I understand that as the result of the blood Christ shed on Calvary, my sins are covered and I am declared righteous (pure) before Him (II Corinthians 5:21). The hard part of purity is the practical side.
Paul’s plea for pure living is best stated in the following words, “Dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness and the fear of God” (II Corinthians 7:1).
Peter said it this way, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (I Peter 1:13-16).
Practically, pure living is daily practicing the presence of God in our lives, living every moment of the day with the goal of doing and saying what Jesus would in this situation.
How does one cultivate such a heart? It begins by admitting that such a heart cannot be obtained on one’s own (Proverbs 20:9), accepting what Jesus has done and is doing in your life (Acts 15:9; I John 1:7), and daily clothing yourself with “the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:11-18).
Simply put, remember whose you are, why you do what you do, and daily align your priorities and activities to reflect such.
As I thought back on Stevie, I kept thinking, “Blessed are those who have been gifted by God to innocence, for they are privileged to have an audience with God.”
Or, as I think back on where we began, I keep thinking: “Blessed are the ermine.”
This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.