When Jesus said, “The pure in heart are blessed,” it makes me wonder what does it mean to be “pure in heart?” Certainly, it could not mean minding a list of rules. It definitely does not mean having the appearance of perfection. Eugene Peterson translates Matthew 23:28 this way:
People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.
So many church going folks think that’s the way to a pure heart. Holiness doesn’t just happen – you have to work for it. And so, they work for perfect (or very consistent) church attendance, they pray each day (sometimes several times), they fight for social justice, and on, and on, and on. We get busy working on our image.
There must be a different way to a pure heart. There must be a better way. Maybe the way is more in line with the thoughts of J.C. Ryle:
He means not those who do not aim merely at outward correctness, but at inward holiness. They are not satisfied with a mere external show of religion: they strive to have always a conscience void of offence, and to serve God with the spirit of the inner man.
Instead of working from the outside – in, being pure in heart means working from the inside – out. Purity cannot be achieved by human effort. Purity must come from within. And if it weren’t for the gospel, we would be in bad shape. But Jesus lived a life of purity and offers it freely to all who believe in Him. We can receive the clean slate that He earned, even though our hearts are a mess.