If Jesus said the words quoted in John 5:37-38, he meant more, not less, than lies on their surface. They cannot be mere assertion of what everybody knew. They were not intended to inform the Jews of a fact they would not have dreamed of denying. Who among them would say he had ever heard God’s voice, or seen his shape? John himself says “No man hath seen God at any time.” (1:18) What is the tone of the passage? It is reproach. The word see in the one statement (John 1:18) means see with the eyes; in the other (John 5: 37-38), with the soul. The one statement is made of all men; the other is made to certain of the Jews of Jerusalem concerning themselves. It is true that no man hath seen God, and true that some men ought to have seen him. No man hath seen him with his bodily eyes; these Jews ought to have seen him with their spiritual eyes. No man has ever seen God in any outward, visible, form of his own; he is revealed in no shape save that of his son. But multitudes of men have with their mind’s, or rather their heart’s eye, seen more or less of God; and perhaps every man might have and ought to have seen something of him. We cannot follow God into his infinitesimal intensities of spiritual operation; God may be working in the heart of a savage in a way that no wisdom of his wisest, humblest child can see. Many who have never beheld the face of God, may yet have caught a glimpse of the hem of his garment; many who have never seen his shape, may yet have seen the vastness of his shadow; some have dreamed his hand laid upon them, who never knew themselves gathered to his bosom.
by Diane Adams
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
I was thinking about words earlier today, how James says they have the power of life and death over others. This is a serious charge, and one that gets more serious the more I think about it. It’s so easy to talk, say all kinds of stuff to people that may even sometimes be true but often comes from a different motivation than that of uplifting, healing, or bringing hope and peace. In fact, I realized, the more I talk, the more prone the words are to take on something of ego rather than the Spirit. And I also realized this cannot be fixed by effort (having tried for twenty years, I feel confident here). No amount of concentration beforehand can stop an unruly tongue. Only a pure heart can do that, as out of the heart the mouth will speak. So how do I get one of those?
When we see God, it is not from outside. There is no vision in the clouds, no floating, celestial face appearing in a moment of need. God is seen from the inside, in the darkness of our own inner depths, in the crucible where the soul and Truth meet. Purification requires burning, and if we seek a purified soul, that is actually how we will get it. Through suffering, failure, intense distress, fear. These are the things that bring the soul into confrontation with the truth. Here truth becomes more than a belief. When the soul turns to truth inside, is willing to recognize its own deceptions, desires, false judgments and pride, then truth is no longer an idea, but a part of the innermost being.
It is not through the successful living of the Christian life that we will see God; it is through the failure of ourselves to reach it. The point where a person is willing to discover his actual motives, what really drives him and why, is the intersection where the process of becoming truth versus talking about it begins.
To see God is to become one with him in spirit, to hear and respond to his voice. Speaking the wrong words is one way to get closer, to have a clearer vision. When I say something I know I should not have said, I go into the trenches of myself, asking, ‘Why?’ ‘What drives you to such words?’ God never lacks an answer for these sorts of questions. The deeper we are willing to go, the more we let go of our own shame, guilt and ego. To see the truth of who we are is the path to a pure heart, a heart that will see God, and eventually reflect him in all we do. I dream of the day when my tongue is so connected to his heart it will be no effort to speak perfectly, as each person needs to hear. So I dig deeper, inside, where the kingdom of God is, where the soul is taught to be true.