From the heart

london1As the young emergency worker gently led the bandaged and shaken woman to a waiting ambulance, he bent his head and spoke to her reassuringly. He guided her gently, his expression one of compassion and tenderness for his patient.

In London we see yet another tableau of human evil covered over by human goodness. The human “machine” can construct a deadly explosive device and summon up the willful hatred (or indifference?) to hide it in the midst of a crowd of innocents. The same human “machine” can overcome its primitive instinct for self-survival and plunge into smoke and fire to rescue the injured and comfort the hurting.

We are capable of both barbarism and selflessness, hatred and love.

Those who would equalize all moral philosophies insist that given the right set of pressures, the right level of moral outrage, we are all capable of evil.

Jesus taught differently. He taught that evil arises from the human heart, not from the circumstances we find ourselves in, no matter how horrible. Even the poor and oppressed are capable of goodness and selflessness when their hearts have been transformed by the Spirit of God. Even the wealthy and privileged are capable of great evil and barbarism when their hearts are consumed by their own self-interest.

For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. —Matthew 15:19, NLT (Jesus speaking)

A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by the kind of fruit it produces. Figs never grow on thorn bushes or grapes on bramble bushes. A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say. —Luke 6:43-45, NLT (Jesus speaking)

If it really is the condition of my heart that drives me to do good things or evil, then my every action is the result of a conscious choice — not destiny, not fate, not environment. No external power can overcome the convictions of my heart. I am master of my own fate.

Which is why the central teaching of Judaism and Christianity, as revealed by the God who created us and understands us, is love. Selfless love. Extravagant love. Constant and faithful love. Love as a motivation for every word, every thought and every deed.

“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
Jesus replied, ” ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” —Matthew 22:36-40, NLT (Jesus speaking)

A moral philosophy that views human beings as pawns to be sacrificed in the pursuit of victory is a bankrupt and doomed philosophy. Hatred will consume it like a malignant cancer.

Christianity claims that every human being is a holy creation of God. I’ll acknowledge right away that Christians have not always lived up to that high standard, but there can be no doubt about what Jesus taught, and what he demands of those who claim to be his disciples.

When anger and envy and hatred rule in our hearts, cruelty and selfishness and evil define our actions.

The alternative is love.

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. —John 13:34,35, NLT (Jesus speaking)

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