Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. — Matthew 5.8
As I sit down to write this, our community is still in shock. Last Friday, a young fourteen year old boy was shot in the back of the head by a fellow classmate at one of the local middle schools. The shooting took place a few miles from our home; we drive past this school three or four times a week. The shooter has been in custody at a juvenile detention facility all weekend. Today local law enforcement officials confirmed that this was a calculated, premeditated attack; the shooter was waiting for his victim in the ninth grade hall during class change, he walked right up to him and pulled the trigger.
We might ask ourselves, “What causes someone to do such a thing?” All we can say is we have no idea what goes on in the heart of another.
Kierkegaard said, “Purity of heart is to will one thing — God’s will.” Jesus speaks a word about purity of heart in the Beatitudes. And it’s no accident that he equates this purity of heart with vision. Those who will one thing see the world through that lens. Our “one thing” is the filter through which we receive and understand reality.
If my one thing is the will of God, I will see you as God sees you: a being lovingly crafted to bear His image in the world.
If my one thing is my will — my cravings, my passions, my interests — then I will see you as an object to help gratify these desires. Or I will view you as an impediment to those desires, as something to be removed or displaced or shot.
What is your “one thing”?
There’s an old video of me as a child. I’m just running around in circles in our back yard, like a dog chasing its tail. In the next clip, I’m running through the house; you’ll see a little blur in the corner every couple of seconds…that’s me as I go zipping through. My Mom told me that when I was young they would sometimes put my dinner plate on the hearth in the living room. I’d come running through, take a bite from my plate, and take off again on some great adventure as Han Solo or Indiana Jones.
Now I have a son of my own and he’s about the same age I was in the old home movie. And sure enough, he loves to run, too. He says to me, “Dad, wanna see me run speed?” And I say, “Sure, man,” and he takes off through the house, carrying his Tennessee Vols football, making his way to the end zone for one more Volunteer touchdown.
Joshua has never seen these old videos of me. But I know this: his one thing is to be like his father. I know it won’t always be like this; I’m sure when he’s a teenager, we’ll have our share of disagreements; but for now, I relish playing the role of hero to my son. And here’s the beautiful thing: without knowing it, Joshua is taking on my character, my nature. I see him out of the corner of my eye, watching me hold my spoon as I scoop up some of Sunny’s chicken noodle soup. And then I see him trying to hold his spoon the same way because his one thing is to do it like Dad does it. And I remember doing the same thing as a child, watching my Dad as he read the paper, as he brushed his teeth, as he walked across a room. And I remember copying his moves, because my Dad was my one thing.
Jesus is offering a new reality, a new nature, when the Father becomes our “one thing”. This is the blessing for the pure in heart.