Tag Archives: Golden Rule

National sclerosis of the Heart?

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!!

Active Fear or Active Love?

Which do we want?   “Active fear” that dominates our lives or “active love” that enriches our lives and the lives of those around us?   It sounds like a “no-brainer”, but why then do we mostly choose “active fear”?

We are afraid—very afraid—of our neighbors and what harm they might do to us.   And so we “gate” our communities.  We arm ourselves in our homes and businesses and apply for concealed carry of weapons permits.  We install expensive and extensive security in our homes and public buildings.  We are afraid—very afraid!   And we have reason to be…

And so we build more prisons, we hire more law enforcement officers and prison guards, we buy more guns, we build bigger and more lethal weapons to maintain peace in our communities and our world.  But instead of peace we find what we have done creates more violence and that leads to more fear, which leads to more violence—-and the fear/violence cycle continues to spiral out of control!

Our inability to “love our neighbor as ourself” has led to a nation dominated by fear.   We have oppressed the poor, we have put our neighbors (and every child of God is our neighbor) at the very bottom of our list to take care of, we have tried to shut out the “stranger” immigrants, we have troddened on the downtrodden of our communities rather than lifted them up.   We have turned away from the face of the poor and of the hungry child.   And now we fear all of the above because they seem to threaten us in many ways.   There are more and more of them all the time.   Lists of robberies, theft, murders, arson, terrorism, and violence proliferate in our newspapers and newscasts.  We fear those around us.

We are afraid of other nations and groups–very afraid!!  And so we build fences on our borders.  We spend billions on military armaments, planes, ships, high technology weapons and on training people to kill the enemies that we sense are all around us.   We sense that if we are not armed to the utmost militarily and maintain maximum security we will be attacked.   We are afraid—-very afraid!!

We are prisoners of our fear!    Fear dominates our lives.

Jesus pointed to another way—-the way of love.   Love of God and love of our neighbor.   He describes how it might work in the Gospel of Matthew, Ch. 5 and 6 and in the Gospel of Luke, Ch. 6.      Let me quote a few verses that tell the way life can be when it is dominated by love of God and love of neighbor:

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.   If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.   Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? for even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Luke 6:27-36)

What if we spent as much of our money on meeting the needs of the people that we feel are  threatening to  us as we do on trying to protect ourselves from them?   Would we still need the same level of protection?

What if we loved those who hate us and tried to do good for them?   Would they still hate us?

What if we worked to correct the problems in our economic and political and social system that cause poverty and homelessness and illness and hunger?  Would we still need to be afraid?

What if we were to “do unto others as we would have them do to us?”

What if we really worked on this revolutionary idea of loving our neighbor as ourselves?

Recently we saw the results of living in fear in the Zimmerman/Martin case.   Both feared the other.  Martin, no doubt, saw a man with a gun and was terribly afraid.   Zimmerman saw a “hoodie” and not the face of an innocent teenager and was afraid.   Now one is dead and the other’s life is permanently changed as he lives in fear of retaliation.    Both saw the other and reacted because of fear.  What if they had been guided by love for each other as children of God?  Would the story be different?

Radical idea to try active love?   Yes.   Naive?  No.    The one who recommended it is still in our world many centuries after he lived a life of active love on earth!

He is known as Jesus, the Christ.