What’s inside is outside…
As a society, too often we “pull the trigger” on a conclusion when we see people act. Maybe that is a good thing; maybe it is not. For the past two weeks, many people in our nation have been talking about the shooting that occurred at a Parkland Florida High School. When something like this happens the discussion is all over the place for days.
In the context of Mark Labberton’s book The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor, there is a lot of discussion of the heart; he says that what is on the inside shows up on the outside, essentially a person’s heart directs his/her actions.
In the school shooting incident, a School Resource Officer at Parkland was seen not going into the school while the shooter was killing students. Quickly many national leaders have labeled him a coward. His inaction is a sign that he was afraid to confront the killer.
They can see into his heart, or can they?
I venture to say they cannot.
He may know why he did not enter the school. God certainly knows why. The rest of us are just folks jumping to conclusions [you may recall the old joke that the only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions].
This example of the School Resource Officer is just that: an example, but let’s flip this around and discuss the heart some more. Let’s look at the inside [the human heart] and see if that matters to the outside [human actions].
If what is inside shows up on the outside, what can we say about people who don’t know God and when they are called upon to act, they don’t know what to do. Can any human heart tuned into God lead a person to act in a Godly manner? Labberton believes that and I do too.
Life is about choices and I firmly believe that God knows every thought I think before I think it and every decision I am going to make before I make it. As an actor in this life, I admit that I am selfish; I do what I want and sometimes what I want is very careless, very egocentric. Yet I believe in Jesus. I know that I do and as I live my life, I hope to have more Jesus in my heart with every passing day, week, month and year. The more I grow in my love for Him, this will result in me making better choices. Choices that reflect my love of God.
In the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke it says “To share in God’s just and merciful heart means acting that out in public.” Self-interest begins to take a back seat to actions that are in line with God’s agenda. Even external law and social norms begin to take a back seat to actions that are in line with God’s agenda. If one sees an opportunity to show a love for God, a Christian who loves The Lord will perform that act of love.
Before I go too far, the effort to transform a heart is difficult. The devil does not want this transformation to happen and he set snares in our way of growth. Labberton writes that we must place “Christian filters into our hearts…we must abide in a different place, in the heart of God…[We must] find this new life by a daily practice of dying to ourselves and being raised for life in Christ, whose life, death and resurrection make this possible” .
Our choices are important. A good decision that I make today, however small, may set me on the road to a better decision tomorrow, a bigger decision tomorrow, a more benevolent decision tomorrow. A bad decision can lead to serious failure or loss in the future. Certainly I am not perfect and I fail, but God loves me anyway. There is no condemnation for those who belong to God. God’s heart is so big He can see us make our mistakes and love us with His glorious unfailing love.
As humans, all of us misperceive. Less than perfect hearts can yield evidence of all kinds of misperception: “stereotypes, labels, epithets, curses, categories, hierarchies and inner and outer rings, all of which frame us, our neighbors, and God with a taxonomy of injustice” [Labberton, 54].
Yes, we can “pull the trigger” and say horrible things about someone we don’t know. Our lack of first-hand knowledge does not stop us, we say the hurtful things anyway.
As if we have the omniscience of God.
We don’t have it; we never will, but He does. He knows what is in the heart of the actor and He also knows what is in the heart of the person who jumps to the conclusion.
It would be much better to let God do His work and attend to the transformation of our hearts for Him.
We have plenty of work to do right there.