Does our nation have “sclerosis of the heart? What in the world does that mean?? It means “hardness of the heart“. The “heart” is a metaphor used over a thousand times in the Bible to describe the self at its deepest level. We read about “closed hearts“, and “open hearts“; about “proud hearts” and “humble hearts.”; In the Greek Septuagint (Old Testament in Greek) the term is sklerosa cardia—“hard heart.” In the Bible, our hearts may be open to God or closed to God; and if they are open to God they are also open to our neighbor. If our hearts, on the other hand, are closed to God they will also be closed to our neighbors. As early as Exodus in the Old Testament, we read about the Pharaoh of Egypt “hardening his heart.” Throughout the history of the Hebrews in the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament the people are indicted by the judges and the prophets and by Jesus as having “hard hearts” and turning away from God. And if we turn away from God, it will show in the same hardness of heart toward our neighbors.
This Christmas Season is a good time to examine the opening question—does our nation have “sclerosis of the heart”? Are we as a people infected with this spiritual disease of “hardness of heart”?
Jesus told the lawyer testing him that all of the law and the prophets are bound up in the Shema as Matthew quotes it: “You shall love the Lord Your God with with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. That is the greatest and first commandment; and the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39) Jesus emphasizes that if, in the “hardness of your heart”, you have turned away from God, you will show the same “hardness of heart” toward your neighbor. In other words you can’t love God and not love your neighbor.
I am concerned about the “hardness of heart” toward God and neighbor that I see in our country today! I see it in some of the following instances, to name just a few. I’m sure my readers can supply many more:
- I see it in cutting food stamps to balance the budget. Taking food from the mouths of children and elderly who receive the bulk of the food stamps.
- I see it in the denial, in Kansas of the extension of Medicaid to over 150,000 needy people in Kansas and thus denying them health insurance.
- I see it in the repeated attempts by politicians to repeal “Obamacare” as they call it, that is meant to provide health insurance to all, including those now denied it because of “pre-existing conditions” and who cannot afford it.
- I see it in the Wichita Eagle when I see that over 11,000 people in Wichita alone have applied and met criteria for aid this Christmas season and giving to charities is down by 2/3 to 1/2 so far this season.
- I see it in the celebrating of Black Friday more than the celebration of Thanksgiving—a turning toward ourselves rather than a turning toward God in thankfulness.
- I see it in the character assassination that is a regular part of political campaigns.
- I see it in the disregard of the common good for political advantage.
- I see it in lack of concern for the homeless and the poor.
This is a serious illness that is infecting our nation. We must truly ask ourselves as a society: Do we have a nationwide epidemic of “hardness of heart”? Have we turned from God and also our neighbor? Think about it!!