This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (John coming soon.)
The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 5
“1. Christ has officially begun His ministry here. His ministry is a part of His purpose, His goals, and is the set up to His eventual Atonement. Keep this in mind as we study His teachings. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings fit into the Atonement, plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.
2. Each thing Christ has taught in this chapter, He has modeled Himself. He is the Exemplar. You may consider studying some of these qualities and finding instances where Christ exemplifies them. For example: poor in spirit. Find a time when Christ was poor in spirit. How can you follow His behavior in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
I think that I’ll go about this post in a different way than usual. First of all, the promise…
for they shall see God.
When I think of this promise, my heart fills with hope and joy. I think that it is because I’m a human being. Despite the relationships we have with our parents, I think that we all, at some point, want to know our Fathers, our parents. We want to know that we are loved. We want to know we belong. We want to know that we are accepted.
I grew up without knowing my biological father. Now, I was greatly blessed in that I was adopted at a very young age, and I have never known life without a father. Though I’m not related to my dad by blood, I have had the experience of being loved, accepted, and supported by a dad. Not only is this a blessing, but I believe that it is a right to every child on this earth to have a mother and a father that love them. (See The Family: A Proclamation to the World.)
As grateful as I’ve been to have a dad, there was still something missing. Who did I look like? Why was I short? Though I didn’t really want to push for a relationship with a man who I thought had abandoned me, I sincerely wanted to know my father. No matter who was raising me, there was a part of me, my own identity, that I just did not know. This question, who are you, anyway, Catania? lurked in my head for 31 years.
Then, miraculously, I found my biological father. (On Facebook!) I’m grateful to know Him. I felt like there was a part of me that I was finally discovering. I’m grateful for my dad, my biological father, my step-father, my mom, my step-mom, and all of the people I’ve been blessed with in my life.
I bring up this experience with my father because I think that we all have a similar spiritual experience. I believe that we are innately drawn to understanding God because He is our Spiritual Father. When we understand Him, we understand more of ourselves as we are His offspring.
So – blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. I’m highly motivated to be pure in heart because I yearn for a relationship with my Father in Heaven the same way I’ve always yearned for a relationship with my own dad and biological father.
On with the Beatitude…
Pure In Heart
In the first part of the beatitude, we are instructed that the pure in heart will be blessed. Purity can be understood and achieved in three ways.
So – inherent purity. Seems impossible, and for most people over the age of about 8, I think that it is. To me, inherent purity is the purity exhibited by children.
Think about children. Is there anything more pure than a child?
I’ve been blessed to have a lot of this influence of inherent purity around me in my life right now. Not only am I homeschooling my children (two of whom are five and three), but I’m also serving as a song-teacher to children ages 18 months to 12 years old. I see every week, every day, even, that children are truly pure. They experience this world purely. They feel intense, pure joy, disappointment, or whatever they face.
I’ll give an example. A few weeks ago, in church, I was singing the song “Do as I’m Doing,” in primary. One of the children, a rather rambunctious (yet pure!) boy was the leader. He decided that we would jump.
Since I’m the chorister for these children, I believe in “getting into it.” The real key to teaching children is talking/acting in a way that they can understand. So, as I sang, I jumped up and down: high and low, fast and slow.
Strangely enough, I was consumed with a pure joy as I jumped and sang this simple song. It was the most amazing thing. There was no reason for my joy. I realized that the joy I was experiencing stemmed from the purity of the moment.
I was tempted to feel a little self-conscious. I knew that my hair was flying everywhere. I’m overweight. From an adult’s (less pure!) perspective, I’m sure that I wasn’t a pretty sight. Thankfully, I looked out again at the kids, and realized that the moment was pure and it was joyful. I could choose to let my feelings, spirit, and emotions be clouded by some stupid comparison, or I could remain pure and focus on the intense joy of the moment.
So – the point of this experience is that inherent purity exists. And there are times we allow impurities into our lives by worrying about the expectations and judgments of others. We allow impurity in our lives by focusing on distractions rather than being mindful of the present moment. Children are masters at pure and present living. It is no wonder that Christ tells us to be like children.
While children are pure, and inherent purity exists. The fact of the matter is, most of us are not children and are impure. Yet we are told “blessed are the pure in heart.” Christ doesn’t give us commandments that we can’t keep. He has provided us a way to become pure.
Purity through Refinement and Trial
As we grow up out of childhood and no longer have the advantage of being pure through inexperience and innocence, we begin to discover our many impurities and weaknesses. The Lord require purity, but none of us are pure, so He blesses us with refining experiences.
These experiences are blessings, but not usually all that fun. I mean, this isn’t singing “Do As I’m Doing” and jumping with thirty children.
Refinement is hard, hard stuff.
I think that the best way to understand the refinement and purification process that we go through is when we think of the refinement of a fine metal. Our trials and experiences in life are like the “Refiner’s fire.” When going through such refinement, we are set in a crucible – a hot, hot crucible, and brought to a temperature that we can handle, but is still hot enough to burn away impurities.
Though this process is difficult, I think that it can help to remember the promise of the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This is where gratitude for trial and tribulation come into play. If it weren’t for the crucibles of trials that we experience during our lives, then we wouldn’t be pure. We wouldn’t be made holy. We’d never “see God.”
Purity through the Cleansing Effect of the Atonement
Often, it seems like the trials and tribulations we face in life are not necessarily our fault. They might come through circumstances of mortality (think Cancer…what a crucible!) or they might come through the sins of others. (We don’t do anything in a vacuum). These tribulations refine us in ways that we don’t usually expect.
There is another way to be refined, and it is usually related to ways that we have specifically soiled ourselves. We can be made pure when we apply the purifying effect of the Atonement. In other words, we can be made pure when we repent.
The purification process of repentance occurs when we 1) Exhibit Faith in Christ 2) Repent 3) Covenant with Him in the Waters of Baptism (Which cleanses us) 4) Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Which sanctifies us). After being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can renew our baptismal covenant each week by partaking of the Sacrament. This will help us to become pure each week, even though we often soil ourselves through sin time and time again.
What all this has to do with the Atonement
I want to understand this beatitude within the context of the Atonement, so we’ll look at each aspect of purity and think of the Savior and His Sacrifice.
Refinement and Trial
Christ, though already pure, went through a continued refinement throughout his life. It reached a peak in the Atonement. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He suffered all of our sins and infirmities – to the point that He bled from every pore. He was mocked, judged, and then crucified. All unjustly. But it strengthened him and purified Him to the point that He could then become the Savior of the world. If He didn’t go through this process, then He wouldn’t have been able to redeem us. He wouldn’t have finished His work. And He wouldn’t have inherited God’s glory.
It’s hard to imagine how exacting, how excruciating his crucible was!
The purity that came from this experience, though, enabled Him to be able to Return to His Father in glory. Additionally, this experience enabled Him to enable us – we are strengthened through Christ because He experienced all and knows how to succor us. (See Alma 7:11-12.)
Cleansing and the Atonement
So – we already know that Christ was pure. Why would he have to go through the process of cleansing?
Hopefully, I can express what I think in a way that makes sense.
When Christ went into the Garden of Gethsemane, he took on our sins. So – even though He had never committed a sin, because He took ours on, he was now technically impure.
“That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;” – Doctrine and Covenants 76:41, emphasis added
“And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.” – Alma 11:40, emphasis added
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:4-5, emphasis added
In no way do I suggest that Christ was impure, in and of Himself. No. He, like the sacrificial lamb, was perfect. However, once He took on our sins, He had to finish His work. He took on our sins. He allowed our sins to soil Him because He knew that only He would have the strength or capacity to purify them.
Because He took on our sins, He could perform the Atonement. This process allows the blood that He shed in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross to cleanse us.
“I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.” – Alma 5:21
And, Christ, who did perform the excruciating work of purification for us has invited us:
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18
Christ because He was pure, took on our sins, infirmities, and impurities of every kind. In doing so, He suffered, bled, died. Then, three days later, He triumphed over death and hell extending us the ability to also become pure through Him.
Isn’t this the best thing ever? Like the best news ever. I can’t help but feel hopeful joy knowing that I have a Savior who has done so much for me
Finally, we are back where we started. The promise of this beatitude is that the pure in heart will see God. We will know our Father. We will be reunited with Him. We will find joy and identity.
What does purity mean to you? How have you been able to embrace life’s difficulties an let trials help make you pure? How have you been able to employ the purifying power of the Atonement in your life?