I may need surgical intervention to open my heart in 2017.
And it’s worse than you think. If it were just a blockage in the pumping mechanism that keeps the blood flowing through my veins, well then I'd confidently entrust myself to the combined and highly competent forces of modern medicine and 21st century technology. Indeed, the quality of medical heart care seems to get better and better with each passing day.
But my condition is more complicated. A well-known heart specialist, Dr. Paul (also known as the apostle to the Gentiles) puts his finger on a similar case with the Corinthians when in the 6th chapter of his second letter he diagnoses what we might call a "closed-heart syndrome."
Although Dr. Paul and his colleagues have "opened wide" their hearts to the Corinthians, this generosity of spirit has not been reciprocated. And this raises concerns for Dr. Paul.
His expert analysis of the Corinthian condition brings to his attention one of the primary symptoms of the closed-heart syndrome: withholding affection (v. 12).
Dr. Paul's diagnosis calls to mind a disturbing question raised by another heart specialist, Dr. John (also known as the disciple that Jesus loved). In his first letter to the churches under his care, he asks: But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
A question like this suggests that Dr. Paul and Dr. John draw similar conclusions about the closed-heart syndrome: such a diagnosis calls for serious concern about the health of the patient's inner man or woman.
What do I do now?
I’ve been meditating on 1 John 3 and 2 Corinthians 6. And the focal point of my meditation is the phrase "closes his heart". I’ve displayed (as I'm sure many of you have) a certain degree of generosity with my money, and with my time, and with my skills. I put to use certain spiritual gifts in a way that I believe was beneficial to others. But I'm wondering about how generous I actually was with my affections. I'm wondering how "open" I honestly was with my heart.
It is both surprising and disturbing, as I think about it, to recognize how much "good" I can do without opening my heart.
In many situations where I am "giving" in one way or another, it seems that I am able to engage my will without activating my affections.
I can give some money to the Roma woman at the market without in any way opening my heart to her. I can accompany a young couple in marriage preparation, or teach a Bible study, or preach a sermon, or lead a discovery group with my affections remaining dormant and my heart inactive.
Giving alone does not announce the coming Kingdom of God or put on display the life-transforming power of His grace to us in Jesus Christ. Good people give in every country and culture and creed that can be found under the sun.
But "opening my heart" ... to my brother, to my neighbor, to my enemy ... now, that's a different matter entirely.
So here are three concrete questions I'm asking myself in this regard, and a prayer that I'm addressing to the Lord in response:
What does it mean for me to move beyond mere giving to an OPEN-HEART INVESTMENT that announces the Kingdom and reveals the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?
What people has Jesus already placed in my sphere in order to teach me how to love this way?
What is presently hindering the loving flow of the Spirit of Christ from my heart into the lives of these people?
Dear Lord, please come and perform the surgery that will open my heart and move me beyond mere "acts of humanity" into powerful manifestations of that "fruit of the Spirit" that reveals your light and your love and your life in Jesus Christ. It is in His name that I pray, Amen.