On p. 116 he says the key to understanding the Beatitudes is...
They serve to clarify Jesus' fundamental message: the free availability of God's rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself, the person now loose in the world among us. They do this simply by taking those who, from the human point of view, are regarded as most hopeless, most beyond all possibility of God's blessing or even interest, and exhibiting THEM as enjoying God's touch and abundant provision from the heavens.
I think many of us look at the Beatitudes and think that we have to be poor in spirit, or in mourning, or meek, etc. in order to be blessed by God. More like it's a warning. But Willard says that's not so. Jesus was trying to show that anyone and everyone could be blessed. And he goes down the list and shows how these traits aren't necessarily desirable. And the one that really got me was the "pure in heart." On p. 118 he says...
And then there are the pure in heart, the ones for whom nothing is good enough, not even themselves. ("Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.") These are the perfectionists. They are a pain to everyone, themselves most of all. In religion they will certainly find errors in your doctrine, your practice, and probably your heart and your attitude. They may be even harder on themselves. They endlessly pick over their own motivations. They wanted Jesus to wash his hands even though they were not dirty and called him a glutton and a winebibber.
Their food is never cooked right; their clothes and hair are always unsatisfactory; they can tell you what is wrong with everything. How miserable they are! And yet the kingdom is even open to them, and there at last they will find something that satisfies their pure heart. They will SEE GOD. And when they do they will find what they have been looking for, someone who is truly good enough.
I'm sorry, but I was blown away by that. Stunned silent. Because that is me!! I had always thought of the 'pure in heart' as those who were innocent and loved everyone and everything. But it does make sense that since Jesus was trying to show that God loves even the least of these, his list would probably not include those who were the best. I mean, this idea that the 'pure in heart' are those that really want to see everything as 'right'... yes... that's me. I don't ever *mean* to be a pain, and I certainly don't want to be, but... I am. And then I feel bad about it. But this is part of what makes God so incredibly good. He loves even me. In all my moodiness, and being difficult, and driving others nuts... his blessing can touch even me.
Sometimes I can't believe that I have spent so much of my life studying the Bible, and have been to seminary, and have even pastored a church for almost 10 years, yet on days like this I can still be completely blown away by something new I've learned.
Thank you, Lord.