Is Your Heart Soft or Hard?
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“Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:7
One cause of hard-heartedness is the presence of apathy. The definition of apathy is "complete lack of emotion about a human being, a thing or an activity." Apathy is our enemy. We must reject this bitter spirit. We must choose to love. We must choose to feel. God is an emotional God. The Bible says that He created us in His image. He masterfully created our hearts to experience many emotions, such as love and joy, but also anger and sorrow.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary says "apathy, impassivity, and indifference all denote a lack of responsiveness to something that might normally excite interest or emotion; apathy suggests a puzzling lack of passion; impassivity stresses the absence of any external sign of emotion in action or facial expression." Jesus was not passive or indifferent, nor did He behave with apathy. He was filled with emotions and His emotions (or passions) led Him to act. When He saw an injustice, He was filled with emotion and was led to try to put an end to it. We see an example of this in a story found in the book of Matthew. Here we see Jesus filled with righteous anger when He observed that His Father's house was not being treated with reverence. We read, "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves" (Matthew 21:12).
Many people think that if they get angry then they are sinning. Jesus got angry in this account, and yet, the Bible tells us that Jesus was without sin. "He made Him who knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21). What is a sin, is if someone has offended us in word or deed, and we let our anger fester and turn into hatred. And if hatred is allowed to live in our hearts, then this becomes murder. The Bible says, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15). This Biblical concept reminds me of a scene from a well-known true story called The Hiding Place, which tells of the life of Corrie Ten Boom, who endured the horrors of a concentration camp during WWII. Corrie had just witnessed her sister Betsy get beaten by a female prison warden when Betsy approaches her and says, "No, don’t hate, Corrie. You must love and forgive.” Corrie knew that she was unable, so she prayed to God and felt that He reminded her of a Scripture, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). She goes on to say, “At that moment, when I was able to forgive, my hatred disappeared." It is only by the grace of God that we can allow our hearts to love in the face of hatred.
We must not allow any part of our heart to harden, because if we do, then we become unfeeling toward others, ourselves and God. When we build a fortress around our hearts, it becomes easy to give into the enemy's temptations, such as to kill ourselves, to take another person's life in revenge or to blatantly work for the devil as a witch who chooses to curse God and His people. I know of a "church woman" who put a hit out on a man who raped her handicapped sister. She felt justified in releasing vengeance against her sister's perpetrator. I know of a man who bought a gun and went to the house of the man who was having an affair with his wife. In both these cases, hatred had settled in their hearts, and a spirit of murder crept in through the door. By the grace of God, neither person went through with their act of hatred.
A hard heart can also manifest in passivity, which is often found in association with apathy. The definition of passivity is "acceptance of what happens without active response or resistance." Passivity keeps us from taking action to stop an act of injustice. We often read of stories in the news where people idly stand by and watch a terrible crime unfold in front of them. Another example is a person who hears his neighbor beating his wife and does not call the authorities to put an end to it. Apathy, passivity and indifference have crept into these hearts. They have chosen to put up fortresses around their hearts so that they don't have to feel, because feelings can be painful. However, we see throughout Jesus' years of ministry, how He was filled with compassion for others, and this caused Him to do an action that relieved others of their pain and burdens. Compassion is the opposite of apathy. The definition of compassion is "sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others; feeling or sensitivity; soft-heartedness; or brotherly love." Jesus displayed compassion in this account found in Matthew, "Jesus was deeply moved with compassion...He touched their eyes and instantly they could see!" (Matthew 20:34TPT). Because Jesus shared the sorrow found in the hearts of the blind men, it caused Him to want to do something to relieve them of their sorrow. Jesus clearly did not possess a spirit of passivity.
Jesus was filled with sympathy. The meaning of sympathy is "understanding between people; or support in the form of shared feelings." We see an example of Jesus' sympathy in the book of John when Mary was weeping because her brother Lazarus had died. "When Jesus saw her weeping...He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled...Jesus wept" (John 11:33-35). Jesus shared Mary's feelings and so we see that Jesus displayed sympathy or soft-heartedness. I did an internet search and found an article that lists 23 Bible verses in Jesus' 3 years of ministry that speaks of Jesus having compassion and some include that He wept.
Tears are a sign that a heart is soft and feeling. A heart that weeps is a heart that is alive When the Tin Man wept in the movie The Wizard of Oz, he said, "Now I know I've got a heart!" Over the years, I've heard several people tell me, "I haven't cried in years!" These people may have the weed of apathy growing in their hearts.
My fellow-Christ followers, let's choose to love and feel. Let's pray and ask God to soften the hardened areas of our hearts with His hot, liquid love. Let's ask Him to pull out the weeds of apathy, passivity and indifference and cause the flowers of love, compassion and sympathy to grown in their place. May we pray and believe God's promise for us...“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).
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