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Heart Over Head

ephesians 4:32 print and tattoos on table with an open candle.

what good is all my head-knowdlege, if it doesn't make my heart tender?

BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE TO ONE ANOTHER, FORGIVING EACH OTHER, JUST AS IN CHRIST GOD FORGAVE YOU. -EPHESIANS 4:32 

Time and again, I find that there’s a disconnect between my head and my heart. I know what I should do, what’s best, what God wants… but I just don’t do it. And my mind is tricksy, making excuses, finding ways to support its claim that I’m a pretty good gal. Truth be told, I already see myself doing it with this verse. I’m a pretty kind, compassionate, forgiving sort of person. This verse isn’t particularly long, I’ve already got it down, next verse please!   

But Jesus isn’t letting up on me quite yet.   

Oftentimes, he told stories to illustrate the real heart-application of God’s Word in our lives. And usually, it was to people just like me, people who thought they were doing pretty good on that particular point. One such story touches on this very theme, the theme of how we treat others. We all know we should treat people with kindness and compassion. But Jesus tells this particular story to a self-righteous guy who knows the truth, but only in his head, not his heart. Read it and see if it doesn’t just prick your heart like it does mine.

   

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On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. 

 “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”      

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”       

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”      

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”      

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”      

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”      

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

Do you feel convicted by that story? I for sure do. I can say I’m compassionate, until faced with the inconvenient, costly, impartial compassion on display. Here’s where I must lay down my self-righteousness and let Jesus himself teach me. Let me give you just a few of my take-aways:

1. I need to stop justifying myself. Did you see how the “expert in the law” tried to justify himself by asking Jesus who his neighbor was? He wasn’t asking because he really wanted to be sure to follow the command properly. He was looking for a loophole, a way to still be good enough, an easy out. It seems that this “expert in the law” was also an expert at justifying himself. And so am I. I know the “law” well enough to justify even my shortcomings with it. But that isn’t what it’s for! It’s for showing me those shortcomings, so that I can ask for forgiveness and for help to actually live it out.   

2. Head knowledge is meaningless without heart application. Jesus is far more concerned with my heart than he is with my head. This doesn’t mean that my mind doesn’t matter at all, but knowledge for its own sake is useless. I must apply it to my life! Otherwise, I’m just like those two religious guys who walked on past the bruised and broken man. They may have known all the right answers, but they did nothing to live them out. As for me, what good is all my head-knowledge if it doesn’t make my heart tender?   

3. True compassion is beautiful. So far, we’ve been focusing on how we often fall short of true compassion and kindness. But now, let’s hone in on the other-worldly, upside-down, unaccountable kind of love displayed in this story. It’s nothing short of an irresistible reflection of Jesus himself.

-True compassion is impartial. It doesn’t just love the easy people. No, true compassion is kind beyond the boundaries of race and religion, politics and preferences, amiability and social status. Like the Samaritan and Jesus himself, when we are kind to people who aren’t like us, it speaks a true word about the God who’s kindness is impartial. 

-True compassion is Inconvenient. It goes out of its way. It considers the well-being of others over its own agenda. It doesn’t see a person as a problem, and it doesn’t look for a way around. Instead, it embraces the other and takes her on with full concern and commitment. 

-True compassion is costly. Helping others isn’t cheap. It takes a toll on our time, our emotions, and even our wallets. But true compassion disregards its own prerogative and considers the other person’s need first. Jesus is our primary example of this, and we’re the primary beneficiaries of his costly compassion. How can we not do the same for others?

So, here we are. Challenged by Jesus. He’s challenging us to not live blindly to our own inconsistencies and justify our shortcomings. He’s challenging us to confess them, to let this verse penetrate our hearts and make them tender. He's challenging us to reflect his impartial, inconvenient, costly compassion in our own lives. I’m down for that. I’m down for the mess and the disruption. I’m down for the expense. And when I’m not, Jesus, call me back to this verse that I might confess again my shortcomings and allow these words to soften my heart.

What about you? Where does your mind want to justify you? 

How might your corner of the world be impacted by true compassion? 

Are you down for the mess, disruption and expense of being truly compassionate towards others?

Thanks for reading,

Natalie Abbott Bio

Meet Natalie,Dwell co-founder

Hi there, I'm Natalie! I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you to hear more about what God is doing in your life!

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