Oh Lord, soften my heart that I might see your face and know the joy of falling at your feet. Make me aware of the glory that is your son and the radiant love that he showers on each of your children. Lord make me know the tenderness of a relationship with you that exists only to give you glory and reverence and praise!
It is a troubling situation at best when a person you know professes to be in a relationship with Christ, yet continues to harbour a hard heart toward someone or something. Hardness of heart is not just a situation that occurs within our own heart, but also happens with in the hearts of those around us. When I posed this situation to others at my church, the typical response was to attempt to break the will and cold spirit of other people in order to force them into a companionate state of being. This seems to be the most illogical response to someone who is hard hearted.
When we look to the scriptures to see how Christ addressed the issue of hard-heartedness, we might begin to look in the third chapter of the gospel of Mark.
1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Mark 3:1-5 (ESV)
I am continually impressed by the ability that Jesus had to teach others without confronting them harshly. He was exceedingly able to educate people as to the important issues of life. Though the Israelite people based their entire existence on the law, they had forgotten the true value of their neighbor. Jesus was educating these people who opposed Jesus valued the law over the life of another person, He educated them by re-focusing them on the true nature of the law.
Jesus’ decision to heal on the Sabbath was not a radical and controversial attack on all those who opposed him. Instead, it was a way to help them understand the true nature of the law, and reveal the heart of the Father who gave the law in the first place. To know Jesus is to know the Father.
To soften our own heart is a difficult process…but it is one that we must do if we hope to have relationship with Jesus.
A hardened heart is the most difficult thing work with in the church. It really doesn’t matter whether the person is an active part of church work, or if they want nothing to do with you or the message you speak. Hardness is a difficult and unfruitful condition of individuals who are not in a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. To be in relationship with Him requires that we become humble and relinquish control of our own life and destiny to, “Him who is able to keep us from falling.” (Jude 1:24) The humility that is required begins and ends in the heart because it is from the heart that the mouth speaks and the body acts. When the heart is soft and pliable the individual is able to follow Jesus and lead others to Him. However, when the heart is hard, there is no amount of pressure that can be applied to force the individual to move, change, or care about anything other than themselves.
A hardened heart is most easily combated by the person who senses that they have a hard heart in the first place. When we notice that we have a hard heart we must work against our instinct to be antagonistic, or argumentative. We must begin to become open to the possibility that other’s needs are more important than our own, and that we must be the one to help meet those needs. This revelation is only available to those who are already believers. Without a relationship with the Christ, any activity to make the heart malleable will only result in the tempering of that same heart which will result in a hardness that may never be overcome.
Religious activity without relationship with Jesus will result in the coldest and hardest of hearts.
In such a stark contrast as my mind can imagine, the earth has turned white. Silvery white blankets cover the old and prepare for the new…we must not be afraid of one thing passing to another, nor the movement of people in and out of our lives. Ends make way for beginnings…
For a long time I have believed the lie that when life moves and our relationships are changed that those we lose are gone forever and that these losses are something to be mourned. Thought the loss of a relationship may be worth grieving, it is not worth missing out on a new person who enters your life. Change is going to happen and lives will never be the same. But to miss out on people along our path would be the loss worth mourning.
Affect those with whom you live, work, and play until you or they or both have gone…Then open your eyes to whomever might be standing right in front of you. Life is to be lived each day for the sake of eternity, because he Kingdom of God is at hand…