Living by Heart

Feelings. Nothing more than feelings? Loving God with your heart means bringing everything to God. The heart in Hebrew and N.T. understanding is the home of emotions, also of decision making. It is the home of caring, but also of character, commitment, creativity, and carry-through. To love God with your whole heart means to love God with everything you've got! Here are some examples of what the Bible has to say about what the heart is and what it does:

  1. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
  2. Blessed are the pure in heart.
  3. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
  4. I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds (Ps 9:1).
  5. God knows the secrets of the heart (Ps 44:21).
  6. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:26).
  7. Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart (Deut 6:4-5).
  8. You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead (Deut 11:18).

The scribe comes today to give Jesus his heart. In this action, he shows himself to be a better disciple than the disciples. In Mark, the disciples don't love Jesus with their whole hearts. They love themselves and seek prestige. But other people actually do a better job of following Jesus' words, including those who seek out the Savior and bring him their whole hearts with contents good and bad. They are the paralytic's friends who make a hole in the roof to lower their friend to Jesus (Mark 2). They are the poor troubled man living among gravestones in Gerasene who ran to Jesus and cried out to him in his torment (Mark 5). They are the woman who brings a jar of alabaster ointment and anoints Jesus with sweet perfume (Mark 14). They are the scribe who is supposed to know everything, but comes to Jesus with his question—not to trick him, but to find out the answer so he can build his life around it.

Bewildered, Bleeding and Been Around

I was talking with a pastor friend of mine recently. She said on any given Sunday in her church in suburban Dallas, she speaks to three different audiences: the bewildered, the bleeding and the been-arounds.

The bewildered were baptized and confirmed and drifted away. They're back. They recognize basic vocabulary words like Resurrection and salvation, but only vaguely. They're not exactly sure why they're here or what they need.

The bleeding are those who just got bad news about the return of their cancer or the departure of their spouse.

The been-arounds are those who have been coming to church for years, but have a feeling Garrison Keillor is talking about them when he says that just standing in a garage doesn't make a person a car. There has to be something more.

On any given Sunday, there is an 80-year-old woman who is still worrying about something she said at Bible study last week: "I've been in church all my life, but sometimes I wonder if the Resurrection is just a story." There is a young man who can't stay in rehab, who is sitting behind a pillar and contemplating how his friends and family might be better off without him to worry about. There is the young mom or dad who wishes they knew more about the faith to teach the baby they hold in their arms.

Bewildered, bleeding or been around, God's command is the same: "Love me with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself." God doesn't want much. God just wants your heart, the seat of your emotions, your inner character and your decision making. God just wants your caring, your character, your creativity, and your carry-through. By no coincidence, that is just what God gives to us, whether we're bewildered, bleeding or been around.

Strengthened by God's giving God's heart to us, we can give ours to our neighbor.

Sources Consulted

Douglas R. A. Hare, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993).

10/31/2012 4:00:00 AM
  • Progressive Christian
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  • Alyce McKenzie
    About Alyce McKenzie
    Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.