Pure Hearts (04-11-20)
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said…
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:1-2,8)
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalms 51:7-10)
God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.' (Acts 13:22)
Jesus’ words today ‘Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God’, reminds me of the three wise monkeys, ‘See no Evil, Hear no Evil, and Speak no Evil’, and leaves me with a real sense of my own failings. I am sure all of us say, hear, or speak things that, in the sense that they hurt others or dishonour our God, are evil. Like the other beatitudes, there is a sense that there is here a goal to aim for, but probably never attain, at least in this life. Maybe, a bit like the pot of God at the end of the rainbow, we can sense the truth and the beauty of these words but know that we will never quite make it.
I think that is why King David, following a major failing in his morality and leadership, prayed these words in Psalm 51, ‘Create in me a pure heart, O God’, words we would all echo when we know we have failed and yet know we want to do better.
The good news is twofold. Firstly there is forgiveness when we fail; David’s sins were forgiven by God, and our hearts are made pure by the blood of Jesus. There were repercussions from David’s actions within his own family, but God forgave him and restored him, as he does us, when we confess and seek forgiveness. Secondly God is at work in us, through his Holy Spirit, to purify our hearts, to make us more like Jesus, even if we do not recognise it ourselves. In spite of David’s failings, he is still described in the New Testament as a man after God's own heart.
This, though, leaves me with a question. Whose responsibility is it for me to have a pure heart? Logically it is mine; the choices I make, the things I think, say and do, are ultimately down to me. But then David says, ‘create in me a pure heart’, suggesting that the responsibility of David’s heart is God’s, leaving us the loophole of ‘If I don’t have a pure heart, then God hasn’t answered my prayer’.
The truth includes both, it is a joint venture. God is at work in each of us to make us more like Jesus, to create in us a clean heart; we can’t do it on our own. But we also have a responsibility to make the right choices, to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil’. We could add to that ‘think no evil and do no evil.
And when we fail? Praise God, there is always forgiveness, restoration and a chance to make a new start.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Purify my heart