Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Beauty of An Open Heart

I have fluctuated all over the place in my spiritual journey. Bottom line? I want to know God. There were many things I did in the past that made me look good. However, in any quiet moment, the fact remained that I still had a sinful heart and wasn't sure what to do with it. This is a reality we all must face sooner or later in order to grow.

As humans we do not have perfect judgement- we are ALL wounded people, so we deal with things the best way we can. Some have better coping skills than others. We try to soothe the hurt inside so many different ways. I choose to give people the benefit of the doubt. Most people do not deliberately do something they know is wrong. Yes, what they do may BE wrong, but in their minds they feel it is the reasonable thing to do. I knew those who lived in poverty because they couldn't get a job. They were willing to steal a car and felt justified because the money for it fed their kids. YES, sometimes people do bad things for a good cause.
Likewise, many of those in churches are hard on each other because they feel justified in doing so. After all, we often take responsibility for one another's salvation- as clearly shown by statements made at the 'Evangelism Rally' I attended last weekend.

I've turned a corner in my journey. God is taking me a step further and putting more of His heart of love in me. He cannot hate or despise anyone. He's not about "Us" against "Them". Yes, He frowns on harmful behaviors, but God hates no man or woman. He is not a far distant observer. He dwells among us daily feeling such tender compassion for the mess we're in. None of us asked to be born into a world of death & decay. He understands the woundedness in every heart that nobody else can see and loves anyway. That is why God ALONE can judge the hearts of men.

To despise anyone goes against the higher nature. It is an uncomfortable state of mind for a Christ follower to be hateful toward anyone and I wish to have no part of that. Finding freedom in the love of our Father opens the heart to love everyone else... male or female, slave or free, rich or poor, black, white or indigo! (Yes, even the people who mistreat us.) Our God is big enough to fill us with overwhelming compassion for ALL humanity. "He is our peace, Who has broken down every wall". Amazing God!

I now understand what Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, "Show me your faith and I will show you my faith by my works (actions)". Read in context, he wasn't talking about keeping 10 Commandments here. He was talking about living decently, in an attitude of loving-kindness & service toward all. Don't believe it? Look at the respectful way Paul treated his jailor, no doubt a man with a calloused heart. Most prisoners would have high-tailed it out of that place, never looking back, but Paul stayed and the warden became a converted man. Love breaks down barriers. The jailor may have held the whip for the beatings endured, yet Paul had compassion for the man's soul. Undeserved kindness, unmerited favor is what Grace is all about.
This challenges me to open my heart further. To despise or fear no one.
Jesus was willing to meet with a Pharisee who was embarassed to be seen with the "rabble-rouser". Nicodemus was sincere, but sought Christ at night, so his precious reputation in the synagogue wouldn't be spoiled. Later, we learn that Nic was converted. What if Jesus had turned away from him simply because he was of the order of the Pharisees? Jesus didn't shut anyone out. I have been a Pharisee for much of my life- it was trained into me from early-on. For all my efforts and boasting, I was in darkness. Suddenly the light of the Gospel came on and the power of God is changing me. I know He can do the same for others like me.

There is NO sin in recognizing churchianity/legalism and seeing it for what it is. But if I turn my back and write off those I consider legalists- I am simply reversing the discrimination. How will love reach them? I have not arrived, I'm still learning this walk, but I feel a boldness growing in me. A love undaunted by the actions of others. I refuse to argue. I will no longer tolerate abuse, but in making a stand, we must remain benevolent to all.

The beauty of an open heart is that it loves- for the sake of loving. This gift can only come from God.


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