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“Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”

Yesterday was a most interesting day for me! In my morning devotions I picked up an old book on spirituality written by Ronald Rolheiser and read a page or two here and there. He quoted Soren Kierkegaard, who said “purity of heart is to will one thing.” It struck me.

At midday while driving to the airport to receive a friend from Norway, I was listening to a recording of Dallas Willard and he said, “Soren Kierkegaard said ‘purity of heart is to will one thing'”. Wow! Again! Then late yesterday afternoon I scrolled through the tweets that come into my smart phone and Rick Warren had tweeted the exact same quote! WOW!  Three times in one day!

What are the chances of that happening by chance – the same quote from three completely independent sources, via different media, on the same day, to the same person? God is trying to say something to me! As the scripture says, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is established.” I thought: ‘this is REALLY serious, Lord I’m listening, help me to obey.’ As with Peter and Jesus’ dealings with him, things seem to happen to me in three’s. Maybe because I’m so ‘doff’ (hard of hearing) God has to repeat himself at least three times.

I realised that we ‘will’ way too many ‘things’; we desire, want, pursue, work for, give our attention to, etc, too many things, often completely conflicting things. Our focus in life is so fragmented and distracted and driven by different things – the needs and cares and wants and enjoyments of this life. Few of us have a clear focus, with clear eyes, where we see and pursue one thing, or THE most essential thing(s).

Soren Kierkegaard’s quote was in reference to Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matt 5:8). Jesus said the eye is the gate to the soul. If your eye is ‘single’ – another word of ‘pure’ (focused on God, the true treasure of willing HIS will) – then your whole body and life is filled with light. If your eye is ‘divided’ or ‘disparate’ (seeing/chasing after many things, the false treasure of the glitter of this life), your whole body and life is filled with darkness. That is being lost.

Pure of heart… seeing God… willing one thing. How we need to see God! As clearly and regularly as possible. We need to wash our eyes and hearts, and keep our focus on what REALLY matters in life, on what is of eternal consequence. The question is: how do we see God? And the controversial answer is (to today’s postmodern world): in the man Jesus of Nazareth. Let me leave that and conclude with a comment on “purity of heart.”

My three repeated messages from God made me think immediately of David and his prayer, “Give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” (Ps 86:11). I wondered if Jesus got his beatitude from King David, especially when you read his other prayer: “And I – in righteousness I will see Your face; when I awake I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness” (Ps 17:15). Our hearts (‘eyes’, focus) are so divided and distracted on many apparently important things, so we don’t see clearly, let alone seeing God clearly. Hence we don’t fear God, we live as practical atheists, saying we believe in God denying his reality and existence in our daily lives. Above all, we deny his will… the ‘one thing’ that we should ‘will’ in our daily lives.

It also made me think of Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, gazing up at him as she listened to his words of life. Jesus said of her, “Only ‘one thing’ is necessary, and Mary has chosen that better part, the ‘one thing’ of taking time to sit at God’s feet, gazing upon him, listening to his word…” (the RAP – Revised Alexander Paraphrase – on Luke 10:42).

Think about it: purity (or unity) of heart is to will one thing. How do we unite our hearts… wrestle our lives down to the bare essentials of God and his love and his word and his work in the world? THE most important ‘thing’ is to will the will of God.

5 thoughts on ““Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing”

  1. thankx Alexander – good challenge and good reminder and so hard to do in this world that competes in so many ways for your attention… really good word and thing to consider as we head off into a new journey which means a new beginning of sorts and great opportunity to reflect and put new things and habits in place… psalm 46.10 be still and know…

    1. Way to go Brett!! Help us Jesus!! It’s the paradox of “let us strive to enter rest.” More power to ya buddy!

  2. Always slightly disconcerting when God does things like that. This post reminded me of two verses: Luke 21:34 ‘”Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.’ and Proverbs 4:23 ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.’

    The more I work in discipleship, and the longer I journey with God, the more I’m aware of how the enemy uses distraction as a tool, especially to try to keep us from fulfilling our purpose. Personally I think we need to use a two-pronged approach – guard and focus – both in terms of worship, as with your Mary scripture reference and with regards to purpose.

    I blogged about something similar on my Emerge Project some time back. Perhaps this post should draw me back there for remembering. Thank you for posting. And, as always, for your willingness to be transparent and real. Always reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit. You have been much loved by God.

    1. Thanks Louise for your feedback, a fellow traveller and worker on the road of following Jesus. God keep our hearts as per the quotes in Proverbs and Luke… bless you Louise.

  3. Reading Thomas à Kempis he lived ca.1418-1427.and his book the imitation of Christ is really profound I can recomand this to you.

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