May 19, 2014

The dictionary defines “idiom” as “an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own.”

The Hebrew language contains many idioms using the word “heart.” For the Hebrew people, “heart” was the very core of their being. Matters of the heart touched their very souls. Combined with other words, these idioms create vivid, “heart-touching” pictures. For example, a “leaping heart” expresses joy. Sorrow is “evil of the heart,” and guilt is being “struck by the heart.”

My favorite, speaking good news to someone, is expressed with “speak to the heart.” When God asks Isaiah to comfort His people in 40:2, He says, “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” “Speak tenderly” is literally, “speak to the heart.” What a heart-comforting message He gives Isaiah to share! “Warfare ended,” “iniquity pardoned,” and receiving “from the Lord’s hand” twice as much grace as the punishment her sins deserved.

In the life arena, the Church sometimes gets confused. Some hear words like “abortion” and “embryonic stem cell research” and “assisted suicide” and think political matters. Some say things like, “I have been called to proclaim the Gospel and not deal with such matters.” I understand this kind of thinking and the caution and fear behind it. Nevertheless, it is not clear, theological thinking. It is thinking blurred by a culture that politicizes these matters and relegates them to the same arena as the economy or foreign policy or the national debt, matters over which Christians may legitimately disagree.

But intentionally having children killed before they are born or the wanton destruction of little boys and girls in laboratory Petri dishes or assisting in the death of someone suffering are not matters over which Christians may legitimately disagree. These are sins. These are matters of the heart, matters that touch the very souls of people involved in them, matters that often leave people with “evil of the heart” and being “struck by the heart.”

God does not give His truth and grace to speak generically and say that sin is bad and Jesus died for sin. He gives us truth and grace to speak to matters of people’s hearts. He gives us truth to call wrong things wrong, to call killing babies and embryos a sin and to call assisted suicide a sin. He gives us His grace to “speak tenderly,” to the hearts of people crushed by such sins.

When we fail in this the devil gains a double victory. Horrible sins get masked behind a façade of “political” and people “struck by the heart” because of such sins never hear the comforting Good News of a crucified and risen Savior spoken to them. Our silence screams Satan’s favorite line, “Did God really say?”

But when we faithfully proclaim God’s grace and truth and apply it to matters of the heart, we give Satan a bad day. People are “struck by the heart” and realize their sin. People experience “evil of the heart” because of their sin. Then the comforting Good News of “warfare ended,” “iniquity pardoned,” and boundless grace can restore that heart to “leaping” once again.

The Gospel is tailor made to speak to matters of the heart!