Few people truly live one life and live it in the open. We are all tempted to wear many masks to help us fit in to different situations. This is so much more common in the superficial world of social media that surrounds us – where people’s profiles so often represent a carefully manipulated impression of how they want to be perceived – but this is not reality – it is play acting – the very idea of hypocrisy. But what is much sadder, is that it is so common in the lives of Christians, whose personas inside and outside the church are unrecognisably different. But in this beatitude – Jesus is calling us to purity, holiness and integrity, which together bring us closer to God.
Apples & Oranges!
Take an easy-peal orange or a clementine or a satsuma or something like that and try pulling it apart with your bare-hands. Now try that with an apple!
If you haven’t got the appropriate fruits to hand – you can watch the videos instead.
Discuss which of those two fruits has greater integrity and is less likely to fall apart under pressure?
Share with the group if you think you are more of an apple or an orange
Sadly, from a young age we are taught to mask our true selves in order to protect ourselves from criticism – to pretend to be “all that” so that people don’t find out who we really are. Sadder still, we all feel a need to compartmentalise our lives like the segments of an orange – in one segment we put our family, in another we put our friends – in one we put our work and in another we put our pastimes – in one we put our actions in another our thoughts and the list continues so that we can gain approval from the people in each segment of our lives. Added to that, the advent of science has led us to believe that we should compartmentalise our minds and our hearts – reserving our minds for facts and our hearts for beliefs. Then science suggests that only facts are reliable and so all our decisions should be made with our minds leaving our hearts to deal with whimsical things such as emotions – but this thinking has done little to bring about peace or harmony into the world we now live in – and has done even less to draw us closer to God.
So in which segment should we put God? (In case you try to answer this question – this is a rhetorical question Mike)
Let’s turn to Jesus’ teaching for the answer:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
For many Jews in Jesus day, their daily concern was focused on maintaining the most obvious form of purity – that is ritual cleanliness. They went to extraordinary measures to wash their hands, avoid blood, maintain a Kosher diet and of course, to avoid mixing with the wrong kind of people – unclean people. Jesus’ audience were acutely aware of ceremonial defilement – but that’s not what Jesus wanted to talk about. You see, all those purity rules that his audience observed were a little like a drive through car wash – the car might come our gleaming on the outside, but the upholstery and carpets remained filthy! So when Jesus taught about sexual sin a few verses later (Matthew 5:28) He shocked them by saying that merely lusting with the eye will defile the “heart”!
Q 1- In what sense do you think the “pure in heart” will see God?
As a society, while we seem far less steeped in the endless rules and regulations of Jesus’ audience, nevertheless, we have an ever-growing list of spoken and unspoken do’s and don’ts that shape the ways we live. Some of these are imposed on us by legislation others by social convention. Any youth on social media knows that finishing a message with a full-stop is seen as aggressive and knows when to put in an emoji not to seem to intense. (Please excuse the full-stop – I was just finishing a sentence – I’m not intending to be aggressive : ) But obeying legislation and conventions doesn’t make us pure in heart – does it?
The Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama in 1965 may have lead to the Voting Rights Act which gave African Americans the right to vote and it may have even paved a way for wide spread legislation that has changed the lives of countless black people in America – but 55 years later we can see that for many a change in the law hasn’t necessarily lead to a change in heart – because it is in hardened hearts that bigotry and prejudice lurk along with pride and every evil that may or may not manifest in actions – that is why Jesus says – blessed are the pure in heart – not merely the pure in actions!
Q 2- How might you be able to tell if a person, whose actions towards his “neighbour” are fine, is in fact sincerely “pure in heart”?
At the heart of the answer to this question must be the word Love (1 Corinthians 13)
But the Bible doesn’t just call us to love our neighbour – it says “love the Lord your God with all your heart…”. While it is clear that paying lip service to such things as equality while harbouring prejudice in our hearts towards others is hypocritical and utterly repugnant to us – how do we feel about insincerity towards God?
Q3- How might you be able to tell if a person (perhaps even ourselves) who calls themselves a Christian, attends church, says “Amen!” at just the right time and even leads a ministry in a church is in fact sincerely “pure in heart” towards God?
That was the easy bit – now let’s get a little more personal…
Q4- None of us are comfortable with merely paying lip-service towards equality while remaining bigoted in our hearts. In what ways might this be the same as claiming to put God on the throne of our lives while living as masters of our own destiny?
It is probably appropriate to spend some time in corporate repentance at this point. Let us repent the impurity of our hearts towards our neighbours and towards God.
If you have time to do this in the group – why not? Otherwise perhaps if you have time this week, you may wish to carry on studying God’s word around this subject.
Read Psalm 24 and see how David describes a person who is pure in heart.
Deeper Q1- How does the fact that everything belongs to God (verses 1-2) encourage us towards purity in heart?
In verse 3, David asks “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” The answer is given in the next verse, “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” We know that only Jesus was sinless and truly pure in heart.
Deeper Q2- How does this Psalm give hope that the sinner can still be pure in heart?
Deeper Q3- On what do you fix your hope that you will “see God”?
Let us each ask ourselves, how would the people in each compartment of our lives describe us? Why might each of them describe us differently? Do our work colleagues see us practice our faith as we do in church? Do our church friends hear the language we use in the pub with our friends?
Let us all spend some time each day this week reflecting on each compartmentalised segment in our lives: our family, our friends – our work, our pastimes – our actions and our thoughts and deliberately submit each one of these to God. Let us pray that He might show each of us ways in which He can be the Undisputed Heavyweight Lord of each.
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