We’re culturally quick to assume this beatitude speaks only about sexual purity. We live in a highly sexualised world – AND we have a Christian world that has hyper focused on ‘what not to do’ with our bodies, and has forgotten ‘what to do, to tend to our hearts’.
Purity is free from impurity – free from any foreign elements. Because our hearts were made for God, anything that enters our hearts that is not of God is an impurity, it’s a foreign element to our hearts.
Obvious impurities include the things that go against the 10 commandments. These are the things that directly go against the will of God, and therefore, not of God, and are a foreign element to our hearts.
More subtle impurities include excesses of desires. eg. the desire for food and drink, is good for our bodies, mind, and soul. But the excess point of gluttony serves no good purpose, and doesn’t fuel our body, mind or soul. Even physically, gluttony makes us sluggish and makes our bodies work twice as hard, it does not leave us feeling refreshed. This is where it becomes foreign to our hearts, and isn’t what God wants for us.
E.g 2. Anger – stemming from a place of justice is good and righteous. But where it turns into impurity is at its excess point where it becomes about revenge, or without mercy. This is where it can easily become all consuming. Which is what impurities of the heart do, they chip away one by one until they consume the whole heart. It becomes self-absorbed and self-centered which is very anti-love of God which is other focused.
Spiritual integrity – without blemish, or impurity.
That’s not to say sexual impurity is not a thing. Of course that is too and there are two things to remember when it comes to this.
- It is not a permanent state. It’s not a case of, oh i was sexually impure, now that’s just the way i am, and i cannot be any more pure no matter how hard I try. OR the lie as our culture likes to feed us now ‘sexual impurity is to be celebrated, and is liberating’.
This says that Sexual impurity is the default state of humanity. That suggests, we actually can’t change, and therefore we can’t grow. This is the case if we did not have salvation, but we do. So there must be room for growth.
- Don’t become paralysed by perfection – we can become obsessed by perfection and nit picking in the name of growth that it actually paralyses us and has the opposite impact. Humility IS NOT tearing ourselves down. God does not want us to criticise our design, he doesn’t even want us to criticize ourselves when we fall. examining our conscience is not the same as being scrupulously critical of our every move. He wants us to acknowledge it, be contrite for the impact that has, and then go to him and ask for forgiveness and try again. True humility is knowing who we are at any given moment in relation to God, fallen human being, who makes mistakes and turns consistently to the father for healing, love and mercy.
Perfection paralysis is not the way forward. It literally stops us in our tracks.
With regards to sexual purity, this beatitude can be linked to the 6th and 9th commandments: Thou shalt not commit adultery and though shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife. Goes to the sermon on the mount – Its not just a case of not actually committing a sin physically but also, what’s in my mind and heart. Am I thinking about adultery, undressing someone with my eyes, or indulging my imagination.
Sexual impurity stops us from making a sincere gift of ourselves, because it takes a aspect of ourselves which is meant to lead us out of ourselves and towards another and turns it inward. ‘The harem of brides’ From C S Lewis
Do not be de-sensitised to sin. Our hearts have a defensive system for that which is foreign, it’s called a conscience, train it up well and become better able to recognize when it starts firing alerts of the things that aren’t good for us. In a hyper-sensory world, we cannot let our hearts become desensitised to the things that are not of God. Where do make excuses of ‘a little bit of this is ok?’ when we know these things built and take over.
E.g. a little bit of music with foul language. A little bit of following people who mock Christianity. A little bit dressing immodestly, or being unchaste in our relationships. Be aware of them, and remember these don’t actually belong in our hearts.
Purity of action and of intention, those who see God in others and live to respect that presence in thought word and deed.
The most beautiful aspect of this beatitude, and the reason it’s probably my favourite is the promise of ‘seeing God’. Remembering the beatitudes is not just about what we might receive if we make it to heaven, but also a way of life on earth, so the promise is too that we might see him on earth. I believe this is how people like Mother Theresa was able to see Jesus in those she served. The purity of heart meant she was so open to receiving the movements of spirit, that calls her to truly see Christ in every person she encountered.
Similarly with Mary. It was her purity of heart that meant that she was able to be so open to receiving God, first in her heart, then in her womb. So too, the faith of Joseph, that allowed him the privilege of being so close to Jesus as he raised him.
We will see him too, when our hearts are free of impurity and open only to God. This is entirely different to the way Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened at the fall. When they chose against God, and allowed something foreign into their hearts, their eyes were opened to sin, to evil. Jesus now invites us, instead of following Adam and Eve’s example, to instead follow the example of the New Adam and Eve, by emptying our hearts of all that is foreign to God, and protecting, shielding our hearts with Jesus’ promise that this way, we too will have our eyes opened, to see God.
This beatitude can also be linked to 1st and 5th -… have no other God’s before me. Our hearts, having been made for God, should not be filled by anything that is not of God. Given something else mastery over us.
and 5th – putting to death the prompting of the spirit to clear a place for God.
If our hearts are where he dwells, shouldn’t that be the most magnificent dwelling place? a brilliant castle? Anything that kills love in any shape or form, whether physically, in thoughts, words, deeds – invites something into our castle that doesn’t belong there, and it doesn’t just stay in the hallway. It’s not content with just hiding out, it will breed and find every corner of the castle to live in. It wants to consume precisely because it wants to take over what belongs to God.
Unlike those impurities that want to consume and destroy our hearts. God wants to enter and dwell there with us. AND because he loves us, he respects us and our free will. So when we allow foreign elements into our hearts, he will not overstep and force himself on us, he will never break our trust like that, and he will wait until we want him and ONLY him, because that’s what love is, and what love does, and he respects our freedom to choose him.
And he helps us along the way, becoming closer to him also brings us closer to a more pure heart, and on that path it begins to ache. light illuminates and showcases beauty but it also sheds light on that which is less than desirable. That’s what we hear in Peter when he met Jesus. In Jesus’ presence, Peter says ‘depart from me, I’m a sinful man’. Peter recognised the ache of his heart, that he has a desire for Jesus, but that right now, his heart is filled with other things. That’s actually a good thing. It helps us to see what needs to be uprooted, to be able to see him more clearly.
“For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back: sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover: no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself . . . . And it is not only the faculty of love which is thus sterilized, forced back on itself, but also the faculty of imagination.” C S Lewis
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