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Pure in heart

I have to admit I did a double take.

I was watching game four of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs.  The Spurs had easily won game three and everybody and his brother expected the Heat to come back on their own home court and win the game and possibly do it in as convincing of a manner as the Spurs had done.

It didn’t happen.

In fact, it didn’t come close to happening.  The Spurs dominated again, completing a two game sweep at Miami.  At one point, the announcers were contrasting the two team’s players and they noted that San Antonio had more “pure of heart” players. 

You don’t hear that phrase a lot—especially in a sports context so it naturally piqued my interest.  The announcers were talking about the differences between a team built around a superstar model (the Heat), and a team built around a non-superstar model (the Spurs).  They were making the point that the Spurs had selected players who would fit into their system—they were “pure in heart.”  In the context, it meant they bought into a system where individual identities are subsumed by the team identity. They are willing to be role players as opposed to the star player that everything centers around.  (In the first four games, the Spurs made 367 passes more than the Heat--that's not a misprint).  Their focus is totally on the team and doing whatever their coach tells them to do to make it successful. 

When Jesus talks of being pure in heart in Matthew 5:8, He is speaking along parallel lines although it is about something much broader and deeper than the game of basketball. He is lauding the trait of single-mindedness as it relates to the kingdom of God.  People possessing a pure heart seek God’s kingdom above all else (6:33), and in such a way that they find their identity and life’s purpose in it.  

Playing for the San Antonio Spurs (or any other professional basketball team) is a statistical improbability for most people.  You have to be quite tall, extremely gifted physically, and possess a highly specialized skill set.  The kingdom of God is unlike the NBA.  It is all inclusive.  Everyone is invited. It doesn’t require a special kind of person as much as it takes a person making a special decision.  That's because although everyone is invited into the kingdom, only those making the decision to be pure in heart are blessed because as Jesus promised, “they shall see God.”

Pure in heart works out well on the basketball court.  It works out even better in the kingdom of God.

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