Back to my point. This isn't a blog about marriage, but I thought there were some pertinent comparisons. I started reading through the gospels again (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible), and I've been blown away by how much of Jesus' teaching dealt with issues of the heart. The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) deals extensively with heart issues either directly or indirectly. Anger, lust, adultery, and murder were all heart issues for Jesus. For Jesus, it wasn't enough just to not kill or not commit adultery. Unresolved anger in my heart is the same as murder and lust in my heart is the same as adultery. On the other side of the coin, giving, prayer, and fasting are worthless in Jesus' eyes if they're not done with the right heart. For Jesus, it's not enough to simply go through the motions. To say it another way, a right heart leads right actions but right actions don't always mean a right heart. God is concerned with our heart, so maybe that's where we should start. Jesus summarized the entire Old Testament law into two commandments: Love God and love your neighbor. Love is a heart thing. According to Jesus if we love God and we love each other then we are doing the two most important things in all of life. That's one of those things that sounds really simple but is sometimes really hard.
Maybe you're thinking to yourself, "Wait a minute, so much of Jesus' teaching dealt with obedience." You're absolutely right. Jesus demanded radical commitment and radical obedience. But you know what, if I really love Jesus then obedience becomes something that I want to do, not something I have to do. Again, that doesn't always mean that it will be easy or pleasant. Another marriage example. Right now my sink is full of dishes. I don't particularly enjoy doing dishes but I know that it would really please my wife to not have to do them in the morning and, because I know that pleases her, I want to do the dishes. The same is true with following Jesus. Sometimes following Jesus means that I'm going to have to do things that I don't particularly enjoy, but because I love him and want to please him, I do them.
I just want to point out here, lest anyone think that I've already got this down, that I need to hear this stuff as much as anybody. This is the stuff God has been working on my heart lately and I thought maybe someone, somewhere, might need to hear the same thing.
I happen to think that this is the most important concept in all of Christianity. Yes, doctrine is important. Yes, obedience is important. Yes, church is important. Yes, social justice is important. However, if my heart is not right then none of those other things make any difference at all. I have this crazy idea that if we all focused more on loving God and loving our neighbors from our heart then a lot of the other issues that seem to divide the church would be a lot less important. What do you think?
PS - If you happen to be reading this and thinking to yourself, "How can I love Jesus, I don't even know him?" then maybe it's time you get to know him. Start in the gospels and read about him and see if he is someone that you can see giving your heart to. Go to a local church and ask for help. Feel free to contact me, there is an email link at the top of the page, and I'd be happy to help in any way I can.
PPS - If you know someone who might need to hear this, please share it with them as well.