Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Don't Follow Your Heart

We often hear people say “follow your heart.” But, what does that mean? Most of the time, I think what people are saying is “do what makes you happy” or “don’t do something that makes you unhappy.” It could also mean “don’t do anything that you don’t want to do” or “only do what you want to do.” Or, maybe it is even tempting us to stay in our comfort zones. After all, that is where we are content.
While the phrase, and the people saying it, mean well, it is not Biblically based, nor is it a mature, Christian way to approach our lives. God often calls us to do things that are outside of our comfort zones – things we don’t want to do, things that we aren’t comfortable doing. Sometimes people who are shy are called to ministries that put them on a stage. Or, extroverts may be drawn to a calling that doesn't have an audience. I believe that God uses us in areas where we aren't so comfortable so that we learn to rely fully on him instead of our own strength. 
But, sometimes, it is much simpler than that. There are callings in the Bible that are global. We have a tendency to want to forget about these. But, they require just as much obedience as our individual callings do. One such calling is that God calls for each of us to love one another. I taught a version of this in my Sunday school class. I told them that I can easily say that I love each of them. They make me proud to be a part of their lives. Even when we don’t agree with each other 100%, we have a spirit of unity and comradery among us. So, it’s easy for me to love them. Other people, not so much. But, we are commanded to love our enemies, not just our friends. Maybe you’re thinking, “I just can’t do that.” Of course, you can’t in your own strength; we all must rely on Christ’s love and spirit that lives within us to do what we are called. Anointed preachers don’t preach on their own volition. They preach through the Spirit of God living within them.
I recently began keeping a prayer journal. In it, I have a list of things that I am specifically praying for: my job, our YA group, my marriage, my family, church leadership. I have several other categories too. But, in looking at my list, I noticed that it was not just full of people whom I love; it was full of people who love me back. Those are the people that it is easy to pray for. So, I added a page about praying for my enemies. I will be honest, the prayers that I want to pray for my enemies (God, please get them, make them pay for what they've done, etc. You see the theme.) are not the prayers that I wanted to write in my prayer journal. So, I Googled and found some good points of how to pray for our enemies (ask that God forgive them just as Jesus did on the cross, ask that God give them a spirit of wisdom, ask that God root them and ground them in love, etc.). These prayers have made it to my journal. It isn’t always easy. But, saying those prayers is starting to change my feelings toward my enemies.
Matthew 5:43-49 MSG
43-47 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
"Grow up?!" Ouch! Most people will encourage us to give what we get, but revenge isn’t ours to give. If we just follow our heart and do what feels good, we can easily justify poor behavior toward our enemies. Our hearts like to think the best of ourselves and worst of others — unless those others happen to think well of us, then they are wonderful people. But if they don’t think well of us, or even if they just disagree with us, well then, something is wrong with them. And while our hearts are pondering our own virtues and others’ errors, it can suddenly find some immoral or horribly angry thought very attractive.
I recently saw a video from the Olympics. A Russian skier had broken a ski during a cross-country competition and was struggling immensely to keep going. But, a coach from the Canadian team brought a ski to the Russian skier, "Because I know the hard work it takes to get here, so I wanted to make sure that he [the Russian skier] finished the race."
We are all in a race and pressing toward our calling. Like the Olympians, we may even find ourselves on different teams: Young Adults, Soul Patrol/Children's Church, Church Board, Worship Team, Senior Adults, Widows/Widowers, etc. But, we are all striving to finish the race before us. How many times do we see others on our journey with a broken ski, spiritually speaking? When that fellow Christian has brokenness, what do we do? Do we just keep our eyes forward and act like we don’t see it? Do we tell them that they messed up, and if they had done things the right way, their ski wouldn’t have broken? Or, do we get our spare ski and offer it to them so that we are sure that we both finish the race? It is easy, and most likely our natural inclination, to do what would benefit us the most and not give much thought to those who aren’t on our team. So, we must learn to incline our hearts in that direction (Psalm 119:112).

Our hearts were never designed to be followed, but to be led. Our hearts weren't designed to be gods in whom we believe; they were designed to believe in God. So, instead of following your heart, I want to encourage you each to lead your heart. Choose who you love. Choose to love. Period.

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