I’ve had two days in a row where I heard my own sharp, cutting comments made about other people and other situations which were never mine to evaluate in the first place. What an ugly, life-sucking, divisive way to engage with community and address the struggles of fellow family members in the Body.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is.9:6
A very close friend, who is a masterful counselor, is just so, so very good at hearing the heart underneath the comments a person makes. When off the wall statements are thrown her way, she tunes in to the story of the person’s life out of which the declarations have come. I, on the other hand, just say, “Well that’s an idiotic thing to say!” Oh, I am so glad that our Wonderful Counselor does not treat me the way I have been responding to others this week.
We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 2 Cor. 5:12
But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ Matt. 15:18
I am so distracted and preoccupied by what is seen that I rarely consider the heart which is where all the actions, attitudes and words originate. My agitated words express the agitation in my heart – not simply about the comment to which I am responding, but pre-existing agitation. Both the comment I am hearing and the comment I am making are coming from hearts which believe certain things about God, self, redemption and hope. My heart is not an exact representation of the heart of Jesus, yet, and so my sin and unbelief are exposed just as my hopes and growing faith are revealed.
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20
There is hope for my ugly, agitated heart because God (not my new resolve) is greater than my heart! And there is hope for the person with the bad attitude or confounding perspective because God is greater than his or her heart also. He is not agitated nor is He confounded by our words because He hears the heart behind them, understands the story by which the heart has been shaped and is the One shaping that heart to image His own – in His time by His strength for His glory.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Eph. 4:2 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Rom. 12:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:10-11
My sharp judgments or critical unloving statements simply reflect a heart that needs Jesus, and this is not a shameful reality but the beginning of the most beautiful one. Why should I feel feel contempt toward others who express (even if unconsciously) their equal need for a redeemer when we should both rejoice that we have One! It is not my job, nor remotely within my power, to change anyone’s heart, including my own. But perhaps I can start listening more to hearts than simply words and be encouraged that there is a story there which is pointing to Jesus. As I begin to hear that story, my responses may change from irritated judgments to interested questions, digging with joy into the redemptive tale of a heart of unbelief (or false beliefs) which is being transformed into one of greater faith and hope in the person and work of Jesus.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Is. 52:7