The post on Facebook read, “We don’t need religion to be moral – in our hearts we know what’s right.’ It’s a popular sentiment. “Just follow your heart.” It sounds so good, so logical, so easy. But is it wise?
What if your heart and my heart disagree? And what if our disagreement means we’re at polar opposites on an issue that demands conflicting actions? Let’s assume we both, at the same time, come upon a man ready to jump off a bridge and commit suicide. I want to let him jump and you want to stop him. I believe he has a right to do it, and should be allowed to do it – after all, it’s what his heart is telling him to do. So I will do whatever is necessary to be sure he jumps. But you believe it’s wrong and that he should be stopped, and will do whatever is necessary to stop him. How do we resolve our differences – after all, we can’t both do what our heart tells us to do without major conflict. How do we know what’s ‘right?’
In Bunyan’s classic “Pilgrim’s Progress” Christian and Ignorance have a conversation.
Christian: “What leads you to believe that you have given up all for God and Heaven?”
Ignorance: “My heart tells me that I have.”
“But is your heart reliable? The Bible says, ‘He that trusts in his own heart is a fool.’”
”That is spoken of a fool. I’m no fool. My heart is wise and good.”
“But how do you know that? What means have you of testing your heart?”
“My heart comforts me in the hope of Heaven.”
“That may be through its deceitfulness. Jeremiah the prophet said, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?’ A man’s heart may give him hope when there are no grounds for his hope.”
“But my heart and my life agree, so my hope is well grounded.”
“What proof have you that your heart and life agree?”
“My heart tells me so.”
“Your heart tells you so! Except the Word of God bears witness, other testimony is of no value.” [i]
We may not agree on what the standard should be, but the fact is we need an unchanging standard – a holy, righteous guide. The Bible qualifies.
“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12) The ‘one to whom we must give account’ is Jesus, the holy righteous one who knows our hearts. “… God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15) “I am He who searches hearts… (Revelation 2:23). “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come…” (Mark 7:21) So before you follow your heart, check it. Jesus exposes our hearts so we can open them to His Spirit.
Ezekiel prophesied, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (36:26-27). Is your heart filled with God’s Spirit? If so, follow it. If not, ask Jesus to fill your heart today. It’s the right thing to do.
[i] John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress in Today’s English, Moody Publishers, Chicago, © 1992 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, p. 139