“It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:20-23 NLT)
The picture above was taken last week by our youngest son, Brandon. His caption “One Nation Under Repair” is apt, in light of recent tragic events in our country. The flag at half-staff reminds us of grief at the loss of innocent lives. The scaffolding is part of the process of cleaning and repairing damage on the outside, but what happens INSIDE needs even more repair.
The shootings in Saint Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas have prompted the repeated statement that violence is not the answer to brutality and murder. Such generalizations do not address the source of evil. For that we must turn to the Master.
Jesus summarizes 13 actions and vices that defile a person, and teaches that they all emanate from the heart. He does not paint a pretty picture of human nature—depravity, unchastity, stealing, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, double-dealing, unrestrained sexual drive, envy, malicious misrepresentation, arrogance, senselessness. These bad habits of the heart corrupt and spoil life.
The condition of the heart is so important to God, that the word heart is mentioned nearly 1,000 times in the Bible. Our physical hearts are very important to us—our lives depend on our hearts, so we want to avoid heart disease. It stands to reason that we should be just as interested in avoiding the diseases of the spiritual heart.
During his time in the Gulag, Solzhenitsyn wrote: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties, but right through every human heart. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
We should humbly recognize that our hearts are in daily need of repair. Repentance is the path to a clean heart. In the holy land of the broken heart—there is joy never felt in sin’s garbage dump; there is light never seen in dark, dingy places; there is peace never experienced in dens of iniquity; there are songs never sung in rebellious hearts.
We are all by nature sinful. The human heart, Jeremiah reminds us, is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked. In fact, no one really knows how bad it is. Billy Graham said, “The heart of every problem is the problem of the human heart. That is why Jesus said we must be born again.”
It is obvious, to any thoughtful person, that force or legislation cannot change the inner condition of the heart. Only Christ, the Sovereign of the human heart, can transform us.
Our nation is in need of repair—one heart at a time.
Pastor Johnny R. Almond
Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church
Friends on a Journey of Faith