“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”— Jesus on the healing of the human heart (Matthew 9:13)
I hope that what I have been writing about the Rule of Life has been interesting to you. I do believe that it is an invaluable tool in the spiritual life. The last time I wrote, I talked about the purpose of the Rule of Life being to put God at the centre. I also talked about grace being central to the character of God.
In the next few articles in this series, I want to go a little bit deeper. And to go deeper, I need to talk about one of the central dynamics of the spiritual life: the healing of the human heart.
All Is Not Right With the World
Jesus says that he came to bring life, that we might have life abundantly (John 10:10). The problem is that we don’t often experience this abundant life. Rather, life often seems heavy. Everyone at times feels stress, loneliness, anger, frustration, sadness, temptation, hurt, guilt, anxiety, shame, fear, grief, weariness, boredom, disgust and so on. Sometimes we feel a few of these at once. Sometimes they don’t go away. No one is free of them.
The Problem Runs Deep
Why is that? In the past, Christianity has given a simplistic answer: we have a sinful nature that leads to the unwellness of the human soul. Now in the 21st century, we often point to a whole host of other factors that make this more complicated.
We would even say there is more than one answer. It could be as simple as needing a change of scenery or a change in attitude. Sometimes, a radical change of circumstances is required. We may be suffering from a medical or psychological problem. Sometimes it is a social problem on a much bigger scale. Sometimes is it an event that happened in the past that still lingers on. Perhaps you can think of others.
I believe that modern psychology and medicine have given us great insight into the human heart along with more tools to deal with these issues. For instance, we have a greater appreciation of the role of grief and trauma in human behaviour, and that healing may not be about forgiveness at all. However, I also still believe that there is something very important about the concept of sin in helping us to understand what human wholeness and healing is all about.
“Sin” Describes a Complex Reality
Now please wait before you tune me out on this issue. You may hear the word ‘sin,’ and think that I am about to shame you. I promise you that is NOT what I am talking about. I do not believe in shaming people, and I don’t believe that is what God wants either.
But I do believe that there is something ‘off’ in the human heart. There is something that keeps us focused on negative emotions, something that makes it harder to love all people unconditionally, something that keeps us fearful. I believe that Jesus wants to heal this ‘something’ in us to lead us to abundant life.
To explore this, I need to talk about sin, and God’s way of dealing with sin, which is atonement. If those words make you flinch, I am guessing you have not heard a healthy version of what they mean. God’s desire is the healing of the human heart. I will explore this next time.