I have been so impressed with some of the interviews I have seen following the horrific events of last week. The shootings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas, have rocked this nation. I am saddened by the continuing vitriol, but I am also very hopeful at what I am beginning to see happening. I think you will agree, as you read these interviews that each of the conversations came from the heart, which is the part of us where our emotions dwell. I think we can all agree that as humans, we are flesh, soul, and spirit. The soul is comprised of our mind, our emotions, and our will. But while the heart would seem to be a part of the soul (because our emotions and desires dwell there), I actually believe that there is a spiritual component to our hearts. I want to explore this further, but first, I want to share why the statements by these individuals moved me so much.
To begin, all three people just happen to be Black. But it wasn't their skin color that spoke to my spirit; it was what emanated from their hearts. I think Benjamin Watson, the tight end for the Baltimore Ravens has given one of the most impressive interviews I've seen. On NFL Access, he stated that the number one issue to tackle in our nation's attempt to heal from racial division is honesty. "It's about stepping into someone else's shoes... and sometimes it hurts. There's pain; there's tears that need to be shed; there's repentance that needs to happen, and forgiveness that needs to happen on all sides. Healing comes when people's hearts are open to the truth; when they are open and honest and willing to get uncomfortable. Racism is uncomfortable! It's not easy to sit here and talk about this issue, but if this nation is going to get to a better place, then we have to realize it is a heart issue; something inside us and not necessarily something effecting us from the outside... We have to respect each other, and see people how God would see them." On Fox News's The Kelly File, Watson said, "[We have to solve our race problem] through Truth, Justice, and Righteousness." This man gets it!
The other two interviews were held with Shetamia Taylor, a shooting victim from Dallas, and a surgeon who treated the officers that were killed, Dr. Brian Williams. I highly urge you to click on both links, and watch them express their experiences that day. I dare you not to shed a tear! When discussing the current state of race relations, Ms. Taylor said, "It's disheartening. I'm angry and I'm frustrated because, of course, we want action, but you have to think first before taking that action. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm not going to stop. I want my community to be unified, I want my people to be unified, I want all of us to come together." Dr. Williams stated, “I understand the anger and the frustration and distrust of law enforcement, but they are not the problem,” he said, his voice choking up. “The problem is open discussions about the impact of race relations in this country. And I think about it every day, that I was unable to save those cops when they came here that night. It weighs on my mind constantly.” And then here is the honest and uncomfortable part of the discussion that Benjamin Watson encouraged all of us to have ... Dr. Williams continued, “And I want the Dallas police to also see me, a black man, and understand that I support you, I will defend you and I will care for you. That doesn’t mean that I do not fear you. That doesn’t mean if you approach me, I will not immediately have a visceral reaction and start worrying for my personal safety.”
Can you see the expression of the heart in each of these individuals? And why is that so important, and what part does it play in spiritual warfare? The term "heart" refers to the inner person, and it is central and vital to our spiritual existence. It is very important, in the context of spiritual warfare and our spiritual life, to understand that God is deeply concerned about the inner man or the condition of the heart. In fact, He make this point clear in 1 Samuel 16:7: But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Could that pertain any more to our what our nation is experiencing?
It is obvious from this passage that God searches the heart. Why? He plainly tells us that Where your treasure is, there will be your heart, also (Matthew 6:21). Everything about our lives -- how we act, our works, our desires and pursuits -- stem from our heart. If our heart is sick with sin, then it produces sickness on the outside. That's why God promises those who will follow Him that He will give them a new heart, and take away their "heart of stone".
The website Bible.org sums it up precisely: Since the heart is so important to what we think, say, and do, we each need to regularly do open heart surgery with the scalpel of the Word under the guiding hand of the great physician, the Lord Jesus. We accomplish this through the teaching, guiding, convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. Like a sharp two-edged sword, the Word divides the inner man asunder to reveal the true condition and needs of our hearts, because this will truly reveal if they belong to Him.
Do you remember the blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago on the verse Mark 4:13 and the Parable of the Sower? I invite you to go back and revisit it. But here is a summary that ties into what we're talking about today: "Three out of four of the types of ground, or soil, received the seed; they were saved. But not all experienced the same thing over the long haul. It had to do with the state of the ground upon which the seed fell. So what does the ground represent? Remember, when asked by the disciples what the parable meant, He told them the mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to those who have teachable hearts ... The Kingdom of God (where God resides and governs from) works with our human hearts (our belief system and depth of our faith). But when the world challenges us through its problems -- bills that are due, family issues, health threats -- we choose fear instead of faith."
If those types of ground, or soil, represent the condition of our hearts, and the seed represents the Word sowed into our hearts, can you see the schemes of the devil to keep that seed from being firmly implanted? Can you see that preparing the soil of our hearts to become fertile ground for the Word of God is an important weapon in our spiritual warfare arsenal? The Enemy may disrupt your planting season with his lies, or with unfortunate happenstances that destroy the condition of your heart. Or, as in the case of last week, he might send agents to kill and murder, sending a fiery dart of hate, causing the condition of your heart to be like barren ground.
When I wrote my commentary on the Parable of the Sower a little over two weeks ago, the challenges brought about by the shootings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas had not happened. Can you now apply what the Bible says about the state of the heart to Benjamin Watson's point that how we react to these tragedies is "a heart issue"? That we need to repent and forgive in our hearts -- possible only through the conviction and presence of the Holy Spirit -- before healing can begin?
If we allow satan any access to our heart, he will take advantage of our fleshly emotions and desires and sow his rocks, weeds, and thorns; reaping hate, division, and rebellion in our hearts. That is why part of our spiritual armor is the breastplate of righteousness which protects our hearts and allows the Word to germinate, thrive, and produce much fruit. That is the righteousness that Benjamin Watson says we must seek as we examine our hearts. He's right, you know. Unless we seriously deal with our heart issues -- fertilizing our hearts with the Word and rooting out the weeds that choke the spirit out of us -- and then allowing ourselves to be uncomfortably honest, and seeing each other as Jesus sees us, His healing balm can not mend our broken hearts.
I may be an eternal optimist, but my faith gives me hope, and I see hope in the conversations these three remarkable people were willing to have. There was honesty, which leads to Truth and the readiness to begin to forgive ... and those are powerful weapons against an enemy that seeks to enter our hearts and make them "deceitful and desperately wicked". We would be wise to listen to the following words of Solomon ....
Proverbs 4:23 "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."