Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
When you receive mercy, your heart will be made pure and free from judgment and selfish intent, then you will experience the true nature of God.
As you’ve already figured out, when I study anything, I begin with definitions and origins of words. And the words I want to explore are pure and heart.
not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material.
From the latin purus:
clean, clear; unmixed; unadorned; chaste, undefiled
In Hebraic thinking, the heart includes the mind, emotions, will, and inner life of the self. The heart is the whole person… The pure hearted person has no desire for falsehood (Psalm 24:4) and expresses “singleness of heart” in their devotion to God (Col. 3:22). King David furthermore wrote, “the commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes”. Jesus told us that submitting ourselves to God yields inward purity that will result in a face-to-face experience of God Himself (1 Cor. 13:12, Rev. 22:44): “and they will see his face”.
My assertion is that having been given the blessing of mercy, our hearts become pure. In literal definitions, our heart becomes unmixed, unadulterated. Perhaps, it becomes, as the psalmist said, “singleness of heart”. But what is our heart’s single purpose? Hebrew4Christians suggests “devotion to God” and that also we become that way by submitting ourselves to God.
I agree with this assessment. I have practiced submission and have found purity to be the result. My interpretation of the Beatitudes is that when we experience mercy, we will develop purity. If devotion to God is the single thing in a pure heart, then what may adulterate it is devotion to self. When I think only of my needs and desires, then I cannot be devoted to God, and cannot be pure. In a strict sense, pure doesn’t necessarily mean good. It just means unmixed, singular. I can be purely selfish, but that is not what Jesus is talking about here.
Our first step was to become poor in spirit. I suggested that this meant to surrender all elements of ourselves to the care of God. When we’ve done that, we will inherit the kingdom, which makes us stewards of it. When we are stewards of the kingdom, then we see the state of the kingdom, we will mourn. When we are comforted in our mourning, we will seek to comfort those who are suffering, and we will inherit the desire to help end earthly suffering. When we desire that, we will see that injustice leads to suffering and we will seek justice until God’s justice prevails and we are filled. When we are filled with justice, we will see that the suffering need mercy. When we experience mercy, we will be purified. Purification is more than surrender. God purifies us through our virtues and our blessings.
“For he is like a refiner’s fire.” Malachi 3:2. Gold is rarely found pure in it’s natural state. It is found deep in the rock. It must be dug out. It must be refined with fire before it can be made pure. It is the same with us. Our selfishness is our natural state, and yes, we must surrender our selfishness, but that is just the first step. That is when the refinement begins. Our mercy will lead us to purity because in mercy, all thought of self is removed. All of our selfish desires and hangups are burned away.
And then we will see the face of God. Seeing the face of God is not simply about having a mystical vision of a supreme being. Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables “to love another person is to see the face of God.” Hugo is suggesting that experiencing God is something we initiate by loving another person. Love is certainly a pure thing. To incorporate Hugo’s revelation further, I would say that loving puts us into a state of purity. It is absent of selfish desires, grudges, resentments, regrets, and pain. It is something we do that transcends all of those things.
The face of God is not simply a mystical vision of a supreme being. It is an experience of the reality of God. The face of something is the part we can see plainly. In a person, it is the part we most interface with. When our heart is pure, we can see the face of other pure things, God things. We see God everywhere we turn in the faces of the children of God. There is purity in all living things, but we will never see nor will we experience our own purity until we become purely devoted to serving God in the world and in our hearts.
The Corndog Angel
inspired by a true event
This wasn’t the most extravagant corporate party I’d attended, but it was no small event either. We were entertained and amused by a live, tiki-carving, alternative surfer band. We were perplexed and somewhat titillated by a gaggle of seventies-inspired rollerskating girls. Beer and wine were flowing freely. And food…the food was everywhere; more food than we could possibly consume that night.
There were tables and tables of chinese food, chili dogs, mexican food, fresh fruit, and my personal favorite, corndogs; hundreds , possibly thousands, of piping hot corndogs stacked up in massive heated metal pans. It was a little nippy that night, so the corndogs also had a very pleasant warming effect. We drank beer and filled our guts until we were loud, laughing, and stuffed.
The party, however, was not exactly taking off the way we were. It’s difficult to throw thousands of software developers and database administrators together with weird surf rock and beautiful skating girls and prevent them from spending the entire time carefully documenting everything with their iPhones. No one danced and many were too shy (and too busy documenting) to even speak to each other. So, we decided to make our exit.
That’s when my buddy Doug was struck by a bolt of inspiration. He picked up a couple of paper baskets and boldly shoveled a pile of corndogs into them.
“Hey guys! Let’s give out corndogs on the street!”
Yes! Why should we let all of this good food go to waste when the streets of San Francisco are full of hungry people? I decided to follow suit. I admit that I felt a little anxious about it. What if someone questioned me? Is it rude to take so much food and then just leave? I cautiously eyed the corndog tray and the two servers who were working the buffet. Would they stop me?
But it was time to leave and I wanted this to happen. I grabbed two paper baskets, just as Doug had done, and scooped up about ten huge corndogs and walked away. When we got to the street, I began looking for people who might be hungry. We were loud and bold as we made our way to our favorite little pub on Powell. It wasn’t long before we came upon a man sitting on the sidewalk leaning up against a building. He held out a cup, his head hung, and his spirit low. I was first up. I squatted down and held out the basket. I spoke softly and cheerfully, “Hey. Wanna corndog?” He looked up at me and laughed with a street-roughened voice. “Thanks!” he replied and grabbed one from the top.
We moved on up the street with our little gang, handing out corndogs as we walked. I wondered how someone who might not be homeless might react if I offered one. I mean, a corndog’s a corndog, no matter who you are and what your circumstances may be. A guy on a skateboard stopped beside me at the cross walk. I uncovered my pile of corny gold and held it out to him, “Dude! Wanna corndog?”
“No way! Are you serious? For free?”
“Hell yeah! Take one! They’re still warm!”
“Right on! That’s awesome!”
He grabbed one and skated off with the changing light.
As we turned onto Powell, I only had one dog left. The five of us were nearing the zenith of our evening revelry, which we would most certainly reach after a few hot irish coffees at the pub. I nearly tripped over a man sitting on the street corner. He was very nearly invisible. He wasn’t speaking, playing drums, holding a cup or a sign. He had a blanket around him. He was holding himself, trying to keep warm in the chilly night. It would only get colder. I squatted down as I had done before. I uncovered the last corndog.
It had been fun and games up till this point. Weren’t we clever, and oh so compassionate, handing out corndogs that would get a hungry man through only a few hours on the cold, hard street. Yes, we felt great. And it truly did lift our eyes to some of the harsher realities of this city that we were being given only the best of. But this was real now. This was a real man, with a real problem, on a real street. We would soon be in a warm, friendly place and would make new friends and have a few laughs, then we would crash in warm, comfortable, luxury hotel room beds for the night. But he wouldn’t, he would be sitting right here where he was right now, alone, cold, and hungry.
I picked up the corn dog by its stick and spoke to him through the haze of beer and joviality, “Hey, brother. Have a corndog.”
Something happened in that moment. Maybe it was just a trick of the street lights, maybe it was the beer. But I wasn’t the only one who saw it. The man lifted his head slowly until his eyes met mine, nothing but a corndog between us. His face melted into a smile. His eyes glistened. There was something happening in that moment that cannot be described. There was a pure light or an energy…a glow. It wasn’t coming from me. It emanated between us, in our brief contact. I don’t remember if he spoke, but his eyes expressed his gratitude as he accepted my humble gift, a warm corndog.
“Dude! You were like the corndog angel or something. That was weird! Did you see that?!” exclaimed one of my buddies with a tinge of awe in his slurred state.
No, I thought, I’m not the angel here. I thought of a story that I’d heard recently in church. A guest preacher, Shane Claiborne, spoke of a woman who lived on the street who said,
“I used to shine!!
I used to SHINE!!!!
but it’s a COLD
For just a moment, on a cold, dark, night on the streets of San Francisco, I wondered if I had seen an angel, who’s light was all but extinguished by our cold, dark, world.
In this story, as they passed out the corn dogs, his heart began to change until he reached the last corndog and the last man. In that moment, his heart became pure. All of his self-congratulations and cleverness were burned away. His heart was filled with mercy. And in the homeless man’s poverty, he had been made pure as well. Between them arose the face of God in a mystical light. He understood something about God in that moment. He understood that God can find us in the meanest of street corners in the humblest of faces.
- What is it that adulterates my devotion to God?
- When have I seen the face of God? What were the circumstances?
God Who Reveals His Face, Create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Amen.