The Heart Of The Matter

Yesterday our retired pastor gave a sermon on the head, heart, and hands, expressing the issue of knowledge, commitment, and behavior.  I found the sermon, as I generally find the speaker’s sermons [1] to be deeply thoughtful and interesting as well as somewhat ironic.  The irony is that at least as I have known the speaker personally, I have had a great deal of respect (and I feel that respect to be mutual) when it comes to intellectual matters, but a great deal of misunderstandings when it comes to matters of the heart.  Specifically, I have found him to be rather remote when it comes to getting at the heart of the matter in issues that we have dealt with, and I consider myself someone as well who is not always easy to talk to when it comes to matters of the heart either.  I consider this to be a lamentable thing, but I am willing to accept even unpleasant truths about myself and to realize that my own seeming emotional remoteness has greatly harmed my own happiness in life.

After yesterday’s picnic [2], my mother and I spent some time in the car talking about the picnic as well as about the conversations my mother has had with my brother relating to biblical matters.  I have, in general, found communication with my brother to be rather irksome and filled with a great deal of misunderstanding.  And while I can understand him as someone whose intentions are good and who has a great deal of discontent towards the hypocrisy and fallibility of others, I have always known him to be someone who lacked the self-examination that allows one to see one’s own flaws and faults and shortcomings with a critical eye.  Nor was he well disposed to heed those who saw his flaws and pointed them out, however mildly or gently.  Nor is this shortcoming an uncommon one.  It is very common for those who fancy themselves to be warriors for justice against the hypocrisy of the world–especially when that hypocrisy is found in people who have decent religious values and who speak in favor of ancient and venerable and eternal truths about human nature–to be blind to their own failings and extremely uncharitable to those who point out those failings, lest those failings remove them of the necessary moral high ground to drag others down to their level.

In many ways, this is a problem that relates very strongly to the subject matter of the sermon, namely the deception and frailty and even desperate wickedness of the human heart.  A not inconsiderable portion of the world, especially the Western world, views as the highest authority the inconstant and immoral human heart.  No unpleasant duty is held to be of higher esteem than following the whims of the heart.  No law, whether of God or man, is to be respected when it contradicts the longings of the heart.  No relationship is to be continued if it brings discomfort or pain to one’s feelings, no dictate of prudence or responsibility is to trump the scrupulous attention to every dictate of emotion and feeling.  In such a world, people regularly cause great evil while being entirely insensible of it, for a recognition that one’s feelings led one astray would lead one into the impossible to accept idea that the heart is something that must be measured against an external standard, must at times be resisted and must at all times be carefully watched and put under discipline to make sure it did not lead us and others into disaster and ruin.

There are many people, no doubt, who would view my thoughts and perspective of the heart to be unduly harsh and unkind.  How is it that I am qualified to speak with such vehemence and such suspicion about the human heart, which supposedly, in the eyes of many, is the source of all wisdom and truth?  To be sure, I do not know the wickedness of every human heart from deep personal experience, although I have certainly made myself very familiar with the folly and wickedness of the human hearts that have come within my acquaintance and familiarity.  Aside, of course, from the wise dictates of scripture, my harshness towards the intractable folly of the human heart comes from my intimate familiarity with at least one human heart, namely my own.  It is from my own ponderings of my own human heart [3] that I have gained a particularly dark view of the human heart, and I do believe this experience to be one that could very profitably be undertaken by a lot of other people as well.  The more familiar we were with our own capacity for self-deception, our own folly, and the ruinous repercussions of following our own longings and inclinations and desires, the less charitably would we view the dictatorial passions of any human heart.

I would also venture to say that those who are well acquainted with the longings of my own heart would likely agree that it would be a disastrous thing indeed were no barrier to be permitted to my own pursuit of my heart’s longings.  If, like that of so many other subaltern groups of people, any criticism or hostility or disagreement with the assiduous following of my longings was viewed as illegitimate and unacceptable and illegal (as it is in some countries concerning some immoral longings), I suspect a great many people would view their lives as very uncomfortable, and perhaps even intolerable.  I do not say this because my heart is more wicked than that of most other people.  Rather, I think myself to be a person of considerable sensitivity to the feelings and well-being of others, of great patience and longsuffering and tenderness towards others, even sometimes at the detriment of my own personal comfort and happiness.  Yet my own understanding of the fonder and more praiseworthy aspects of my heart does not in any way negate my own realization that my heart’s longings, if not subject to discipline and occasional rejection, would be disastrous to myself and to others.  And I have no reason to think human hearts in general to be better suited to my own to be authorities over what is right and wrong.  Our hearts are not to be the authorities in our lives, and those who behave as if they are are predestined for ruin not only in their own lives but in the lives of anyone else who happens to become entangled in their folly and self-destruction.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/18/two-conversations-concerning-the-relationship-between-obedience-and-divine-favor/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/12/an-introduction-to-compendia-a-collection/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/07/the-relationship-between-pietism-and-leaving-egypt/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/12/23/against-the-usurpation-of-the-pharisees-part-one/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/07/08/an-accidental-picnic/

[3] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/12/13/the-heart-wants-what-it-wants/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/05/30/the-voice-up-on-the-stage-is-a-heart-inside-a-cage/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2014/08/31/in-the-integrity-of-my-heart-i-have-done-this/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/07/28/because-no-one-wants-to-be-deceived-so-much-as-ourselves/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/02/15/you-already-know/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Heart Of The Matter

  1. Tyler L Smith says:

    hyperlink is broken on accidental picnic.

  2. Pingback: On Why Hypocrisy Is Easy | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Here We Are, Servants Today! | Edge Induced Cohesion

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