The ordinary heart.
Pastor Mark Labberton’s book The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor says the ordinary heart gets in the way of loving our neighbors, seeing our neighbors through the eyes of Jesus.
The ordinary heart that we all have is not the reason we don’t act to help others as much as the ordinary heart gets used to overlooking the needs of those around us. Labberton says ordinary human hearts accommodate apathy; they allow it.
Evil hearts allow injustice and suffering; in fact they cause it. The root of tyranny and oppression comes from an evil heart. When we hear of bullies, their acts come from an evil heart. To my way of thinking, most of us don’t really have evil hearts but almost all of us have ordinary hearts.
Our hearts don’t consciously overlook the needs of others. Most of us just get caught up in the immediacy of life.
We know we need certain things to live and in order to get those things we have to have income. We get wrapped up in the process of generating income and that becomes our main, everyday focus. Sometimes the process is all consuming and that weakens our hearts further as we begin to acquire more than we really need. Possibilities occur that we never thought possible and we convince ourselves we cannot live without certain items which are really not that necessary.
Add to this the desire we have for equilibrium, normalcy if you prefer. We like a stable life which allows us to function without much upset. We hear of others who suffer from the panic of drug addiction. We hear of others who find themselves victims of crime. We hear of others who are victims of sexual abuse and we distance ourselves. Whew, that is not me; the still small voice says “and I am glad.”
Labberton says “Our hearts become benign…our hearts may not lead us to do injustice, neither are they strong enough to drive us to seek justice….That is, we don’t have hearts that actively, courageously will and pursue justice, even for the truly vulnerable…Our hearts do demonstrate our capacity to be determined and focused enough to will some things for ourselves and those we love most: prosperity, education, comfort, safety.”
And then we hear of Tara Gower, a Houston EMT who asked neighbors to form a human chain so Annie Smith could get through high floodwaters during Hurricane Harvey. Annie was in labor and had to get to the hospital. She made it by clinging to her neighbors’ backs, taking her to a waiting truck on the high ground. At the Route 91 concert in Las Vegas, thirty-year-old father of three, Jonathan Smith raced toward the concert venue where America experienced its deadliest mass shooting. Smith pushed twenty people to safety when they were frozen on the ground by fear of the gunman’s bullets. He picked one woman off the ground, carried another one who had fallen and roused many others to start running. Smith took a bullet to lower left side of his neck but he kept trying to help others. Ian Grillot was in a Kansas bar watching a basketball game when a gunman walked in, pulled a gun and told a pair of Indian men to “get out of my country.” When the gunman opened fire, Grillot decided to take action and subdue the shooter. A bullet pierced his hand and entered his chest but he stopped the shooter before he could take more lives. He did manage to kill one of his targets, a thirty-two year old engineer. Grillot said “I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I didn’t do anything.”
We all know of the “great commandment:” “Lord, help me to love you with all of my heart and with all of my soul and with all of my mind and with all of my strength. Help me to make this the number one priority in my life. Help me to love my neighbor as myself.”
At the center of the great commandment is a love relationship we are supposed to have with Jesus but that love overflows to a love we are supposed to have for those around us.
That love is not the love of the “ordinary heart”.
It is something more, an extraordinary love that seeks to help those less fortunate.
Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” God calls us to do more; He wants us to do more.
I believe He wants us to have an extraordinary heart.