A Three-Part Series on the Human Heart as the Temple of God
One of my favourite stories in the Bible is when Samuel the prophet travels to Bethlehem to anoint the new king of Israel. He knows that the future king will come from the family of a man named Jesse. When Samuel arrives, he asks Jesse to bring his sons to him, one by one. When Samuel looks at Jesse’s eldest son, he sees a strong and tall man with a kingly appearance, so he naturally assumes that he is the future king of Israel. But God stops him short, telling Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16: 7)
God Looks at the Heart
This theme runs all through Scripture. God looks deeper, right into the human heart. In the Bible, the human heart is more than just the organ in your chest. It is a metaphor for your whole inner life: your thinking, feeling, and willing. In the heart, all of your loves and hates are born. It is your deepest self, the home of your desires, fears, and hopes. The heart is the seat of your deepest joys and, conversely, where you know the most crushing pain. This is why we talk about having a broken heart or feeling like our heart has been torn out of our chest. When God looks at you, God sees your heart.
God doesn’t actually see all of the things that the world sees: your titles, your wealth, your fame, or your resume. God sees where you are joyful and where you are suffering, where you have loved your neighbour, and where you have hurt your neighbour. God only cares about one thing deeply, and that is your heart. This is what it means to say that God loves you: your deepest self, who you really are where no one else can see. For God, it is not about being perfect; it is about being honest. It is about offering God your heart for God’s mercy to heal it.
Here Be Dragons
God knows that it is not easy, because the human heart is a confused and rocky terrain. While our hearts are capable of great love and joy, they are also capable of inflicting great pain. An early Christian saint described the heart as an apocalyptic arena. He writes:
The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. There are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices; but there too is God, the angels, life and the Kingdom, light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and treasures of grace. All things are within it.St. Macarius of Egypt (300-391)
The ultimate meaning of discipleship is this universal struggle of the human heart toward God and against sin. The way to win this struggle is to let God love you, knowing that God’s healing love is called mercy as well as grace. But this isn’t easy. Next week we will talk about how repentance is really the name for the struggle to let Christ dwell in your heart richly, loving you deeply and transforming your heart.