In a chaotic and uncertain world, firm paths can be hard to find. Join us for a seven-part devotional series on the Beatitudes for Lent as we walk the way of love in an upside-down world. Get the email series or the printed version (printed series available for a limited time).
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
Most people want to do good in the world, shares Jacinta Trang, our guest this week. But good intentions don’t always cut it: Jesus invites us to live and serve with purity of heart, offering his gracious refining as we seek his kingdom on his terms.
This reflection is adapted from a full-length interview with Joel McKerrow and Gracie Naoum, hosts of the podcast ‘An Upside-Down World’. This 8-part podcast has been created especially for Tearfund’s Lent 2022 series.
Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect that of Tearfund.
The Beatitudes were something that Jesus kicked off his ministry with. They remind us and bring us back to what matters most. These spiritual qualities that God gives us – which are an inversion of what society would tells us is the definition of happiness – bring us back to what actually gives us meaning.
One thing we need to recognise In terms of purity of heart is that it doesn't come from us. It's something that we actually attain from God Himself when we accept Him into our life. It's not like a one stop shop; we are on a continual journey of learning what it means to purify our hearts. The first thing that came to mind in thinking about this topic was the analogy of metal being put in the fire: when a blacksmith puts metal on a fire to be able to make something, it requires all the impurities to come to the top. And the metal then becomes a liquid form. And from that liquid form, it can then be moulded. And a reflection can then be shown on the surface once the impurities are removed. And so I think in a similar way, God refines us so that his image is reflected in us. It's so important that we recognise that it doesn't come from us trying to make ourselves pure, but it's God who actually shapes our hearts and our minds in a way that begins to reflect Him, because of who He is and the grace that He gives us.
In our social media-driven culture, it’s so easy to share everything you’re doing, every opinion you have. That’s why having a secret place with God is so essential.
God sees our hearts, and he sees why we do the things that we do. An important question that I always ask myself is, why? Why am I doing this? Why do I want to pursue this social justice issue? I’ve really had to tackle those questions, because I think very easily it can become self-serving. In our social media-driven culture, it’s so easy to share everything you’re doing, every opinion you have. That’s why having a secret place with God is so essential – a place for things that you and God are working on, journeying on, to check motives and ask God to reveal how to do things with a right heart and a right mind.
Many, many times I've had to check my motives, finding that I'm gravitating towards doing something for someone else as opposed to for God. When I was helping out at the homeless shelter that my church was supporting last year, I actually didn't talk to anyone at my church about it. I didn't want my heart to become impure in the sense that I wanted to do it for the sake of doing it. I wanted to be there for the people and not for others who are looking on. If I do find that I'm seeking validation from people, I draw back, and I come back to God, and ask how can I help? What can I do so that I don't allow myself to be in that spotlight? So I can be doing this with a right heart and right mind?
Soren Kierkegaard talks about purity of heart being the will to do one thing. It’s about being single minded in our obedience to God, having a heart that hungers to know God and a thirst to actually live like Him. To submit ourselves to Him and align ourselves with his truth and magnify Him in what we do. It's not something that we're ever going to be perfect in, we need to continually come back and allow him again to refine us and to bring out the impurities that come along the way; the distractions, the motivations that are perhaps not pure, that seep in as we try and champion a cause.
I read a book called When Helping Hurts and it was very challenging and uncomfortable at times. I think it's definitely a book that anyone on the social justice journey should read. There were examples that really struck me and showed that we can have the best intentions, but unless we truly listen to the people we're caring for and find out what they need, sometimes we're actually doing more harm than good in our pursuit. As a doctor, that's something that has shaped my work as well. We can often try and fix other people; I’m in a helper role as a doctor, so I think we're inclined to want to do a quick fix. But it's not that simple. Sometimes, the best medicine can actually just be listening to someone and their story. And this kind of listening allows us to be more effective on our social justice journey.
Heavenly Father, though we are part of a broken world, we thank you that you are our refiner, moulding and shaping us so that we can become more like you. We pray that you clean our hands and purify our hearts with the gift of your grace. Have your way so that we may see and love you better, praise you all the more joyfully and so that Your purposes can be accomplished in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
In the remote province of Papua, Indonesia, many young children are undernourished and suffer from preventable diseases. But vulnerable children are enjoying revived health, through a health and nutrition program facilitated by Tearfund’s local partner, Yasera.
By working closely with local churches in the area, Yasera has grown relationships and built trust with families. They now hold monthly weighing and immunisation sessions for under 5’s at risk of malnutrition, as well as home visits and community meetings where they facilitate nutrition lessons and cooking demonstrations. They’ve seen huge improvements in the health of young children, with rates of malnutrition dropping, a greater variety of nutritious foods eaten, and caregivers empowered and confident in helping their kids to thrive.
As one mother from Yasera’s project shares,
“My daughter was so skinny, I thought she was going to die. Before the project, I didn’t know how to cook well for my daughter. Since the Yasera staff have been training us, my daughter has put on weight, and I have learned about nutrition and how to properly care for her.”
Will you give to Tearfund's Lent appeal to see love in action?
Jacinta Trang is a volunteer with Tearfund. She is a doctor working on the Gold Coast, an avid reader and an enthusiastic runner. She is passionate about creation care, community outreach as well as finding ways to address health inequities; and is on a journey of learning what God’s heart is for each of these areas.