“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Matthew 5:18
These words are part of what has become known as the Beatitudes, which introduced the longest record in the Gospels of one of Jesus’ teachings. The implication, supported by the rest of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is that
if you want to see or know or connect with God, your underlying intent or motivation matters more than your actions.
Jesus illustrated what he meant in several ways. You might not murder anyone, but If your are angry without cause, you are still subject to consequences. It might well be that you do not actually commit adultery, but the attitude of lust will still cause you problems.
Common sense tells us that Jesus did not mean by this that if you are angry, you might as well go ahead and kill someone, or that if you feel lust, you should throw restraint to the wind and go for it. Harboring the attitude hurts you. Carrying out the action hurts both you and others.
Jesus wanted us to understand that our actions stem from our motives.
A Pure Heart
What this means in relation to loving like Jesus is that we should devote some effort to modeling our inner attitudes after the pattern Jesus presented us, not just our actions. This is an internal reset first and foremost. People often perform acts of love, but they are not really love at all. Child abusers typically buy gifts for their victims, but they are not motivated by love for the victim. Husbands often give their wives nice gifts, but the motive might be manipulative, hoping to get something from their wives, which would not be love at all.
All the more reason to constantly engage in introspection and attitude checks. As we change our inner drives to be more like Jesus, then we will find that loving others—even relatively unlovable people—will be much easier. It’s a lot easier to act in love when we start with a pure heart.