Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday Musing: Purity of Heart is not just about sin

As a recovering evangelical, biblical, charismatic, conservative ex-minister of 25 years in six "denominations" serving in a variety of staff capacities, I find myself daily detoxing myself from ways of thinking about God and practicing the religion of my historical discipleship. While I'm thankful for the foundation that was laid my parents and churches, I have been blessed to recognize the limits much of this placed on my growth in Christ. Leaving professional ministry and no longer attending churches has allowed me to see not just who I was, but who I'm becoming. I am learning how to follow Christ as an American living in a religious culture not unlike what Jesus seemed to encounter in his day.

And as the barnacles of my boat are removed, I am discovering what the boat looks like in its created form. After all, no boat-builder builds his boat with barnacles already attached. And few boaters seem to care about the fact that barnacles are not original parts of a boat. The boat was built in a certain way to accomplish its created purpose.

Over the last few years, then, I have found myself evaluating the things I do and the perspectives by which I have done them in light of purity. My upbringing and religious indoctrination limited my perspective on purity to be centered on sinlessness.  I'm learning that purity of heart may be more encompassing than simply being rid of sin.

Purity is allowing me to enjoy each moment for its own sake and not because it serves as a the preliminary moment to the next thing. I wonder if being "pure in heart" is more about an approach to all of life rather than a description of a life without sin.

For instance, I think about purity when I watch sports. Typically, and perhaps somewhat naturally, I tend to watch my favorite teams with the perspective of finishing the game with a win in order to get closer to the ultimate goal of a championship. I fail to enjoy the game's competition because I'm concerned about how it will end. Purity is opening me up to the activity of the game itself thus allowing me to appreciate the playing of the game rather than the outcome that I want.

Perhaps purity from God's point of view has more to do with embracing the moments of life rather than the outcomes. If the moments are that which count, then the outcomes can be whatever they will be. Joy is found in appreciating the "now" of life, not the "yet to come".

This perspective on purity continues to expand its application in my life. It certainly affects my experience of God. I'm learning that Jesus redeemed incarnational living and not eschatological focus. In other words, life in Christ is just that- LIFE, not death. Experience with God in purity is embracing our "nows" and not letting life pass because our focus remains on the "not yets".

I want to live life with purity of heart- a quality that Jesus clearly promoted. To limit it to a life without sin may miss the full possibility of a life refined from not only activities that rob me of the full scope of life in Christ, but also religious perspectives that deny what Jesus meant when he said he came to give abundant life.

Purity for me has certainly always incorporated cleanliness from sin. It has not, however, included cleanliness in theology. I'm glad to say that the rehabilitative work of the Spirit for me is refining me like gold from the dysfunctional and toxic dogma that traps people from living abundantly. Hearts are impure but not in a sinful way- just in an infected way.

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