Two daughters had been given parts in a Christmas pageant at their church. At dinner that night, they got into an argument as to who had the most important role. Finally the 14 year old said to her 8 year old younger sister, “Well, you just ask Mom. She’ll tell you it’s much harder to be a virgin than it is to be an angel.”
John Wooden, former coach for UCLA (and a member of the Disciples of Christ) once said to his players, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” A Jewish man moves into a Catholic neighborhood. Every Friday the Catholics go crazy because, while they’re morosely eating fish, the Jew is outside barbecuing steaks. So the Catholics work on the Jew to convert him. Finally, by threats and pleading, the Catholics succeed. They take the Jew to a priest who sprinkles holy water on the Jew and intones: …..”Born a Jew ……Raised a Jew ……Now a Catholic.” The Catholics are ecstatic. No more delicious, but maddening smells every Friday evening. But the next Friday evening, the scent of barbecue wafts through the neighborhood. The Catholics all rush to the Jew’s house to remind him of his new diet. They see him standing over the cooking steak. He is sprinkling water on the meat and saying: …..”Born a cow ……Raised a cow ……Now a fish.”
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. To be pure in heart is to have ones mind, motives, and principles pure. To be pure is the quality of being free from mixture, pollution, or other foreign elements. Paul writes to Timothy and says, The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (1 Timothy 1:5) To be pure in heart is the Christian who seeks not only to have the external actions of their life correct, but who desire to be holy in heart, and who are so. The Bible reminds us that we look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Paul again writes, Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (1 Timothy 4:12) It is not about what is visible, but what is invisible, the heart.
“Deep within every person is a longing to be connected to a story larger than ourselves.” God is holy! Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” (Rev 4:8) In God there is found no sin. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.(1 John 3:4)
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with `unclean’ hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “`These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ (Mark 7:1)
T. S. Eliot said, “Christians tend to make things neater and tidier than they really are.” The Jews of Jesus’ day often took ceremonial purity beyond what Scripture commanded. They considered ceremonial purity more valuable than spiritual purity. For this error they were soundly rebuked by Jesus. The purity which a Christian should strive for is spiritual in nature. We forget at times that Jesus did not come to abolish our humanity but to save us from our sins.
A Christian must confront reality and meet people where they are. Separation is not isolation-it is contact without contamination. Jesus was the friend of tax collectors and sinners. Many church members don’t have any unsaved friends, or if they do, they keep them at a distance. Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem, where the crowd was so cosmopolitan that the inscription on his cross had to be written in three languages. Many churches today have abandoned the marketplace and spend their time reminding one another of the gospel.
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man `unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him `unclean.'” (Matthew 15:18)
There is a sense in which all will see God. That is, they will behold him as a Judge, not as a Friend. In this place it is spoken of as a special favor. Are the things you’re living for, worth Christ dying for?