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The Straight Answer; The Heart Answer

December 12th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 18 (NLT)

18 Hiding hatred makes you a liar;
      slandering others makes you a fool.


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

The hardest thing to swallow about the Christian faith is the constant rerouting of life’s issues to the heart. The teachings of Jesus constantly dealt with issues of motivation.  Unforgiveness.  Bitterness.  You know, the heart.  And it would seem that the people of His day were constantly asking very straightforward questions about “straight answer”  issues only to hear Jesus respond with a “heart answer.”

Peter wanted to know how many times he “had” to forgive someone.  He even submitted a prospective answer that he thought would win him brownie points with Jesus.  “Is seven times enough?”  I’m sure what he expected Jesus to say was, “Oh Peter, how mature of you to be willing to forgive someone seven times in a day!  That’s exactly the love I’m talking about!  “Rock” on, Peter ” (Peter means “rock”, if you missed my sly attempt at humor . . . very sly indeed.)

Instead, Jesus skipped the reproducible, easy action formula and replied with a heart answer: “Hey Peter, your seven is one thing, but multiply by seventy and you may begin to understand how My heart loves people.” Humanity’s collective Type A personality would have immediately taken out the mental calculator to do the math.  “Okay, we have to forgive 490 times a day.  Hmmm, okay . . . but so help me God, if they hurt me 491, it’s all over but the crying.”

We long to get outside of the heart and deal with the superficial.  Why?  Because it’s easier to access and less painful to change.  We can drone our way through the physical actions of living– even living as a Christian– without checking out what’s going on down on the inside.  I don’t blame us, really . . . every time God has had to work on my heart, it has usually meant that I had deny what I want and submit myself to what He wants.  Sure, in the end the difference is incomparable, but going through the “surgery” of constantly massaging one’s heart into softness is uncomfortable and time-consuming.

And make no mistake, comfort and time are highly valued in our fast-paced, self-driven culture.

But Jesus always cuts to the chase of the matter: the heart.  It’s kind of His thing.  The woman at the well tried to distract Him by asking questions about religion; He replied by revealing the relationship issues in her life caused by her wounded heart.  James and John tried to use the power of God to exercise judgment by fire upon a rebellious village who had rejected Jesus; Jesus rebuked them for not understanding the loving heart of God. Peter tried to defend Jesus from His attackers by whacking off a dude’s ear; Jesus healed the very person who had come to kill Him.  At every point, Jesus always valued the issues of the heart above all else.

We want to praise the people who give millions to the church . . . Jesus says that poor widows who give from their “hearts” actually give more than the rest.

We want to know how far is too far sexually . . . Jesus says that to lust in your “heart” is the same as doing the deed.

We want to fake smiles to people we are really mad at . . . Jesus says that if we don’t forgive them in our “hearts”, that we won’t be forgiven either.

Even if we give our lives for the sake of the Christianity . . . Jesus says that if our “hearts” aren’t established in love towards others that it is worthless.

It always comes back to the heart.  The heart is the crossroads of a relationship with God.  Ritual, religion, and rote repetition can never be suitable substitutes for a God who perpetually calls us to expose that which is internal to that which is eternal.  The heart is the unseeable, unjudgable part of our lives that only One can truly evaluate, and that only we can truly submit.

Even though this is an Old Testament passage written well before the time of Christ, the timeless truth of God that has existed before the foundation of time and space still rings true . . . it’s all about the heart.  “Hiding hatred makes you a liar . . . “  Take out the God-part of the equation and gaze at this issue solely through human eyes and hiding hatred may seem almost noble.  “Hey, at least I’m keeping it to myself and not hurting anyone else!  Would you rather me make a scene?  Hiding it is the best solution.”

Ah, but again the truth of the heavenlies trumps the assumptions of the earthly.  Hiding hatred isn’t noble; it’s dishonest . . . again, an issue of the heart.  

“Okay,” you say, then I’ll just go off and let everyone know how I feel then!  Then I won’t be a liar anymore.”  Insert the next part of the passage, “slandering others makes you a fool.”  

“What, if I’m not a liar, then I’m a fool?  What gives here?!  Just give me a straight answer!”

No simple, straight answers; only heart answers.  That’s kind of what God does.  In other words, this passage is saying very simply that holding in hatred towards someone corrupts us from the inside.  On the other hand, expressing our hatred to the extreme . . . not for the purpose of restoration or resolution . . . but rather for the purpose of division and slander, is equally as damaging and caustic to our souls.  

Neither one works, but something else does: changing the heart.  Instead of hiding the hatred, forgive from the heart.  Instead of going off on a tirade of gossip and harsh words, speak honestly from the heart to the person who hurt you out of a heart focused on reconciliation.  The only acceptable answer comes from the heart.

No surprise here; that’s kind of God’s thing . . . is it yours?






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